October 27, 2020
Friends of Medicare will be standing today in support of Albertans with disabilities, who are currently supported and cared for under publicly-run Direct Operations at homes and respite centres in Edmonton and Calgary.
Approximately 200 guardians of disabled Albertans were given notice on June 10th that the UCP government was “exploring alternative service delivery”—code for privatization—of Edmonton’s Rosecrest home for children, the Hardisty and Balwin respite centers, Edmonton group homes, and Calgary’s Scenic Bow home.
“Many of these Albertans are literally unable to speak for themselves, but their guardians have made clear they didn’t ask for this, they don’t want this, and they want the government to stop privatization,” stated Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.
We’ve been down this road before: in 2013, Premier Alison Redford suddenly announced that Red Deer’s Michener Centre would be closed, without the consent of the guardians of the centre’s residents. Friends of Medicare joined guardians, staff, and Albertans from all walks of life in speaking out against that closure. The Redford government was warned that moving aging and medically fragile Albertans could have dangerous results, and that is exactly what happened: in 2014, the CBC reported that of the 41 residents who had been moved, 5 had died.
Later that year, new PC leader and Premier Jim Prentice promised guardians and residents of Michener that the closure would be reversed and Michener would remain open.
Now, six years later Alberta’s current government is unfortunately repeating the mistakes of the past without listening to the voices of those impacted. Scenic Bow in Calgary is home to Albertans who are as medically fragile and aging as those residing in Michener, and children in the Rosecrest home in Edmonton would likely be in hospital beds in the Stollery Children’s Hospital if they weren’t being cared for there.
The adult group homes and respite centres in Edmonton also serve an important function as part of a continuum of support and care for Albertans with disabilities throughout the province. We can sadly anticipate that an attempt to move these clients from their homes will result in similar tragedy to what we saw during the failed Michener closure.
“Just as in 2013-2014, the changes to care are being made without the consent of guardians, many who are speaking out against it. These people know their family members best, and they have asked this government to reverse their decision to privatize their loved ones’ care so they can be assured their lives will not be put at risk, and that their quality support and care will continue uninterrupted,” states Azocar.
Privatizing this care will no doubt add unnecessary burden and costs to our health system at a time when it’s imperative that we have all hands on deck for our continued pandemic response. Friends of Medicare is urging Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney to put aside privatization plans and to commit in writing that the Albertans who have called these Direct Operations sites their homes for years or decades will be able to remain there under public operation as long as the care and support is needed.
We encourage Albertans to join us at the Alberta Legislature grounds today at 12:00 pm as we stand in support of our friends, family and community members with disabilities who rely on this care. Those who can’t attend are encouraged to contact Minister Sawhney and urge her to reconsider this decision. Today we must bring the message to our government that the privatization of care for Albertans with disabilities is a dangerous and short-sighted move that cannot be allowed to continue.
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