Guest Blog - What's Happening in Sundre?

What's happening in Sundre?

wodak.jpg Carol Wodak, March 27, 2016

Note: We're pleased to feature a guest blog post from respected elder care advocate Carol Wodak. Carol is a valuable resource on issues and information relating to continuing care, and has put together some facts and her perspective on what's happening with the closure of 15 publicly delivered long-term care spaces in Sundre, while seeing the opening of a supportive living facility operated privately by Mountain View Seniors' Housing.


Mountain View Seniors’ Housing is a non-profit organization, and a registered charity, operating seniors’ lodges, seniors’ self-contained apartments and subsidized family housing in Carstairs, Sundre, Olds and Didsbury  By 2012, MVSH submitted a plan to the Alberta government’s ASLI program, as a consequence of identifying the need for more seniors’ care in the Sundre area, including assisted living and long-term care.  At that time, Sundre Hospital and Care Centre had 15 long-term care beds, and the Foothills Lodge had 43 residents.

By 2014, MVSH was awarded a $3.8 million Affordable Supportive Living Initiative (ASLI) capital grant for a 103 bed facility which would consist of 40 level 4 and 4D supportive living units, 45 level 1 and 2 lodge units to replace Foothills Lodge, and 18 independent living “life lease” units, similar to a project in Olds. MVSH had approved $26.6 million from Life Lease sales and with financing to provide the estimated construction costs. By 2015, the federal government had added Investment in Affordable Housing funding to bring the total public investment to $8,232,000 for the 103-bed facility.  The facility was expected to open in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Progressive Conservative government had been systematically shifting long term care from nursing home facilities to a new model called, at that time, “Designated Assisted Living” and now “Designated Supportive Living”, and the New Democrat opposition had been roundly condemning wholesale displacement of persons assessed as needing the higher level of care.

In an article in the 04 May 2010 Tofield Mercury, NDP MLA Rachel Notley said “charges that the government plans to 'move people out of hospital beds into private for profit beds where they receive less care and pay more for it: that's wrong."… the waiting lists for those fragile Albertans needing long term care is not being addressed.   "Albertans are waiting up to two years for long term care and this government has shut down beds," she said.   "A lack of long term care beds means seniors will be faced with one of three options: (1) not getting the care they need; (2) staying in acute care hospital beds, or (3) paying exorbitant fees at supportive living facilities."

They have consistently ignored the results of the 2006 million-dollar Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research study [on behalf of Alberta Health and Wellness] about the health outcomes of seniors cared for in nursing homes and in supportive or assisted living facilities.

Fast forward to March 8, 2016, when radio station rock104 reported Council Learns Of AHS Plans To Decommission 15 Sundre Hospital Long Term Care Beds

“…There was a big announcement made by Alberta Health Services at the Monday, March 7th town council meeting. 

AHS is going to decommission the 15 long term care beds at Sundre Hospital with the construction of the new Mountain View Seniors Housing facility in Sundre, according to Mayor Terry Leslie.

He adds there are 15 long term care beds in the Sundre Hospital and those residents will see a change in care.

Mayor Leslie says they are looking forward for ongoing community meetings to try and make the transition as easy as possible for patients affected and make sure resident care into the future is going to be the paramount focus.

He adds there is a contract to provide service not in long term care but in supportive living care at the new facility. So he calls it a change in the way care will be provided to seniors…”

Closure of the LTC beds was not an AHS decision.  The LTC beds in the Sundre Hospital were registered as an Auxiliary   Hospital.  According to the OPERATION OF APPROVED HOSPITALS REGULATION Alberta Regulation 247/1990Every hospital shall require prior approval of the Minister for a) any proposed major change or termination of an existing service provided by the hospital ...”

This was a decision made without any consultation with the community, and the community is very concerned about the loss of the LTC bedsAHS is now planning consultations to determine future use of the hospital space

The current NDP government is on record over a long period of time, in 2012, NDP MLA David Eggen compared the closure of the long term care facility in Carmangay to “domestic abuse” at a rally to protest Premier Redford’s decision. Also in 2012, Premier Rachel Notley commented that the Tory plan to limit LTC beds and shift to supportive living “aims to force sick seniors to shoulder a larger share of their health-related costs and live in facilities that may offer them an inadequate level of care.

"It's unfair, but it's also absolutely penny wise and pound foolish," Notley said.

"These patients will end up in much more expensive ER and acute care beds because they are the last resort."

The 2015 NDP Election Platform promised to create 2,000 public long term care beds [not to close public beds and shifting to private supportive living], and to “end the PCs’ costly experiments in privatization, and redirect the funds to publicly delivered services. 

They are short-changing Alberta seniors by not creating enough long-term care beds and relying on expensive, for-profit delivery of inadequate assisted living and homecare.

Hansard records for Monday, March 14, 2016 and Tuesday March 15, 2016 show an interesting role reversal; the Wildrose protesting shutting down long-term care beds and laying off nurses in Sundre, and NDP Health Minister Hoffman explaining that they’re not really losing LTC beds, although there might be a slightly different level of care the number of beds is increasing from 15 to 40.

The Minister’s lines could have been written by any of the Tory Health Minsters in the last dozen years.

Friends of Medicare and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees have joined the opposition to the closure of the LTC beds and the shift to a lower level of care which is provided with increased private costs for goods and services, and increased responsibility for residents and/or family and friends.

Public Interest Alberta is on record as opposing closure of public long term care beds, with the Seniors Task Force participation in a documentary about the Carmangay closure, in their media releases, in their Position Paper on Long-Term Care, and in their meetings with the minister.