Bill 70 prioritizes the long-term care industry over the lives of Albertans

April 22, 2021
EDMONTON

Bill 70 prioritizes the long-term care industry over the lives of Albertans

Bill 70: COVID-19 Related Measures Act, introduced today, intends to ensure legal protection for health services facilitiesincluding continuing care operatorsfacing lawsuits over illness or death due to exposure to COVID-19. If passed, Bill 70 will prevent families from being able to seek answers and hold care homes responsible for negligence of their loved ones. 

The legislation will apply retroactively to March 1, 2020—prior to when Alberta enacted emergency public health measures. Any existing lawsuits that do not meet the new standard for gross negligence could potentially be thrown out, even if they met the standards that existed at the time they started their legal actions. The bottom line is that this bill would make it harder for those who are seeking justice on behalf of those who have been harmed as a result of COVID-19 in long-term care and retirement homes.

Conversely, the bill would make it easier for those operators to defend themselves against legal action. Going forward, long-term care and retirement homes will not have to worry about being held to account for negligence—only gross negligence—and they do not have to meet the normal test of good faith (ie. proving that their efforts were competent and reasonable). 

Of particular concern is that Bill 70 has been tabled by Richard Gotfried, MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek, who is also the member appointed to chair the government’s Facility-Based Continuing Care (FBCC) Review. 

“It raises the question as to who he is really trying to protect with the introduction of this bill,” says Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “Is this government more concerned about the operators who profit from caring for seniors, or the seniors themselves who needed us to care for them at their time of vulnerability?”

The primary entities that benefit from this policy decision are private, for-profit continuing care companies. This bill in no way serves the public interest, or the interest of those Albertans who tragically died potentially preventable deaths in a system more focused on profit than on the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.

“Where is the legislation protecting residents?” says Azocar. “Friends of Medicare and other seniors’ advocates have been loud and clear about what changes are urgently needed to protect people living in care homes, and to make sure they have the care they need. That protecting the profit margins of these facilities has been the priority in this province is a telling measure of our humanity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate toll on seniors should serve as a grim lesson to our governments that systemic change to our continuing care system is long overdue. If our governments fail to take this opportunity to finally remedy a system that has been in crisis for decades, they will be allowing for these lives to have been lost in vain.

More to come from Friends of Medicare.