Celebrate Seniors’ Week by Fixing Seniors’ Care in Alberta

Celebrate Seniors’ Week by Fixing Seniors’ Care in Alberta

EDMONTON — The first full week of June each year marks Alberta Seniors’ Week. It is a chance for Albertans to show appreciation for Alberta’s seniors and all that they contribute to our province. Friends of Medicare is marking this Seniors’ Week by continuing to call for the return of an independent Seniors’ Advocate, for properly funded home care, for Alberta to get on board with universal Pharmacare, and for the Alberta government to stop their attacks on Continuing Care.

“This is a week to appreciate and celebrate Alberta’s seniors, but the truth is, they deserve so much better than they are getting from our provincial government,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “If they truly wanted to celebrate seniors, our provincial government would be doing more than putting out a statement once a year, they would be supporting and growing the programs that provide much-needed support to seniors. Instead, this government is actively watering down the regulations and services that keep Alberta seniors safe and healthy.”

Two 2023 reports from the Auditor General showed clearly how badly we are failing Alberta seniors living in Long-Term Care. The reports highlighted how decades of underfunding and chronic understaffing in seniors' care have spelled disaster for seniors and for the workers in the system. The Auditor General’s reports confirmed what Friends of Medicare and other advocates have long been calling for: we urgently need for a new approach to providing care in this province. Yet on April 1st, new provincial Continuing Care Act regulations came into effect which removed minimum hours of care for residents of continuing care homes in Alberta.

“Minimum care hours in Alberta were already woefully low, leaving far too many seniors and other Albertans suffering without their care needs being met. The provincial government's new continuing care regulations are only going to make a bad situation worse,” said Gallaway. “Rather than watering down regulations even further, our provincial government should be adopting the new national long-term care standards, bringing back an independent Office of the Seniors Advocate, improving working conditions so that facilities aren’t relying on a low paid precarious workforce, implementing things like paid sick days for all workers, and ultimately taking back control of the system by removing profits from the equation for seniors care altogether.”

Last month, we learned that Alberta would be receiving $627 million dollars, over five years, in new funding for Seniors' Care from the federal government. Unfortunately, no strings were attached to this money to ensure it will actually be spent on improving seniors' care or the working conditions in facilities.

“More federal funding and support for seniors’ care is urgently needed, and is appreciated. But to hand money over to the Alberta government without any strings attached is a huge missed opportunity to actually improve care in this province,” said Gallaway. “Our provincial government has repeatedly prioritized private profits over care when it comes to health care spending. Without oversight, we are very concerned that federal funding will simply be used to increase the profits of operators in Alberta’s highly private continuing care and home care systems, instead of put towards where it’s urgently needed to improve care for seniors.”

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