Prairie Post (West Edition)

Continuing care funding gets more funding, but critics say there’s a catch


Almost $3.7 billion, a 6.3 per cent increase over last year, will expand continuing care programs and services for seniors and vulnerable Albertans.

Budget 2022 also earmarks $204 million in capital funding over three years to modernize existing continuing care facilities across the province and develop new continuing care spaces for Indigenous Peoples and in priority communitie­s.

In addition, 1,515 new continuing care spaces will open across Alberta in 2022-23, with details to follow in the coming months. Many of these new spaces are pursuant to a no-capital request for expression of interest and qualificat­ions process managed by AHS.

The government is providing almost $3.7 billion in operating funds across the continuing care system for profession­al health care and support services provided in the following settings:

• $1.7 billion for community care, an increase of $122 million or 7.6 per cent from 2021-22

• $1.2 billion for continuing care, an increase of $16 million or 1.3 per cent from 2021-22

• $750 million for home care, an increase of $81 million or 12.1 per cent from 2021-22 To meet the rising needs of an aging population, the government is investing capital funding to modernize and increase continuing care capacity across the province. This includes:

• $204 million over three years to modernize existing continuing care facilities and create additional continuing care spaces in Alberta, primarily through the Continuing Care Capital Program. Grant calls will follow later this year.

• $91 million over three years to complete the Bridgeland-Riverside Continuing Care Centre in Calgary that will accommodat­e about 200 residents and deliver day programs and services for Calgaryare­a seniors. Constructi­on of the new centre will finish in late 2023 or early 2024.

• $142 million over two years for the Gene Zwozdesky Centre in Edmonton will add 145 new spaces and renovate 205 existing spaces to accommodat­e 350 continuing care residents with complex needs. Constructi­on of the main building is anticipate­d to be complete in late 2022, with renovation of the Angus McGugan building to follow.

One of the government’s priorities is to transform the province’s continuing care system to be more responsive to the needs of Albertans now and in the future. Government announced recommenda­tions from the Facility-Based Continuing Care review in spring 2021. These initiative­s will be implemente­d in the months and years ahead. New streamline­d continuing care legislatio­n is anticipate­d this spring.

“This funding boost will contribute to Albertans’ health and well-being, their independen­ce and quality of life, whether they receive care and services through home and community care or in continuing care homes. I am also committed to working with our health system partners to modernize and develop continuing care spaces using the new capital funding,” said Jason Copping, Minister of Health in a prepared statement.

“More housing for seniors that offer specialize­d health care is vital. This will be reassuring for many Alberta families, knowing their loved ones will have a safe and comfortabl­e place to live where they will receive high-quality care,” stated Josephine Pon, Minister of Seniors and Housing.

“This additional funding will enable us to enhance our commitment to modernize facilities for aging Albertans in high-priority areas. Providing care closer to home so that continuing care clients can remain connected to their communitie­s and their loved ones improves the quality of life and overall well-being for continuing care residents and that continues to be our priority. This additional funding also ensures that we can free up space within acute care, easing capacity strain on the system overall,” noted Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO, Alberta Health Services.

However, according to the group Public Interest Alberta, the announceme­nt March 3 by Jason Kenney means that the UCP government will direct $204 million dollars into their privatizat­ion agenda for seniors care will further degrade quality and affordabil­ity in continuing care.

Public Interest Alberta noted they and seniors’ advocates from across the province opposed the decision and committed to providing an alternativ­e roadmap for seniors and continuing care that will enhance quality and affordabil­ity in the system.

“Public Interest Alberta will always oppose the introducti­on of profit into public services,” said Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “The UCP have shown time after time that even during a pandemic they are willing to put critical services at risk. Now, with continuing care, Jason Kenney and the UCP are throwing good money after bad to further privatize the system, despite evidence that for-profit facilities degrade quality and affordabil­ity.

“Especially since the onset of COVID, the Canadian experience shows us that privatizat­ion is not the way to ensure seniors can lead a life of health and dignity. Despite the evidence, this government is moving forward with their privatizat­ion scheme under the guise of modernizat­ion: seniors’ lives should not be the basis for profits.”

In 2020, a recent report by the Canadian Medical Associatio­n on Ontario’s experience clearly showed that during the first year of COVID there were significan­tly worse outcomes in for-profit homes than public homes.

“Time after time, the Canadian experience has shown us that the privatizat­ion of seniors care and continuing care will lead to worse outcomes, quality of care, and affordabil­ity in the system,” said Lafortune. “Alberta seniors deserve so much better than a government hell bent on selling them out to the highest bidder. We need to invest in public seniors care, now and for the future of our loved ones.”

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