Home care privatization about private profit, not better care

Home care privatization about private profit, not better care

Yesterday afternoon, the Alberta government announced they will be further privatizing home care services, releasing a request for expressions of interest and qualifications (RFEOIQ), set to close in July of this year. This plan will see Albertans with complex health and care needs being sent into the community, without providing details as to whether additional supports will be made available. 

“This announcement does nothing to address the considerable existing issues in Alberta’s home care as a direct result of decades of privatization,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “People already struggle to access care in our fractured home care system, and are routinely required to jump through hoop after hoop to prove their need in a complex assessment process. When they’re found ineligible, additional care and costs are offloaded onto families. Meanwhile, home care aides are among the poorest paid health care workers in Alberta, with some of the poorest working conditions. How will this help Albertans, their families, or the people who provide their care?”

For-profit home care providers employ a precarious workforce of underpaid and often undertrained care workers. Alberta is experiencing chronic staffing shortages throughout our health care system, which have gone unaddressed by this government, and home care is no exception.  

“Promises to expand continuing care are effectively meaningless without a plan to staff it,” said Gallaway. "Staffing shortages will continue to hurt the delivery of home care until we move to a public delivery model that is funded adequately to attract and retain a stable workforce. If we want a high-quality continuing care system that meets the needs of all Alberta seniors, we can’t keep ignoring the root of the problem: we need to remove private profit motives from the system.” 

More funding is needed to expand and strengthen our home care system so that those who need assistance to safely remain at home can do so. But adding additional private contracts to the equation, and handing no-strings-attached public health dollars over to for-profit providers can only add further complexity to an already fractured and difficult-to-navigate system of care. 

This announcement follows the recommendation of the Facility-Based Continuing (FBCC) Review Panel’s final report last year. While the panel surveyed Albertans' opinions on our continuing care system, much of the feedback was promptly ignored. Respondents clearly indicated that they did not want to see public funds provided to private, for-profit operators, but the report made no recommendations that would see the removal of for-profit delivery. Further, they recommended "providing opportunities to attract more private development,” as we’re seeing now.

“Alberta has been here before: ‘savings’ found via the privatization of our continuing care system come directly at the cost of unfilled care needs for seniors and people with disabilities,” said Gallaway. “Every health care dollar that goes towards private profits is one that could have been spent on patient care. This government continues to treat vulnerable people like commodities, it’s shameful.” 

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