This is from the Canadian Press.
Certainly having more home care workers and paying them better is a progressive move but most of the other policies are not. The policies are interested not in provided a better public system but using public funds as a subsidy for private health care services and thus opening Alberta to many US companies who no doubt can see new markets opening to them. There will also be a dual system. Those without money to pay the extra for private care will be left to the tender mercies of a public system that is already being starved of funds. At the border Alberta can erect signs: Welcome to Texas North. No doubt Harper would like that!
Alberta seniors who can afford it to be able to buy extra care
CALGARY — Seniors who can afford it will be able to pay for extra services in the facilities of their choice under a new long-term care strategy announced Monday by the Alberta government.
Some seniors and medicare advocates blasted the plan as costly and a clear step toward privatization, but Health Minister Ron Liepert said it's necessary, given that within 20 years, one-fifth of Alberta's population will be over 65.
Until recently, the province has kept a tight constraint on how much care providers could charge for accommodation, making private development not financially viable, he explained.
"Quite frankly, it's a business. And the numbers haven't justified the business case," he said. "What we want to do is start to open some of that up."
Under the new plan, seniors could take flat-rate funding from the government based on their needs and use it to "shop for their own health providers." They could then pay out of their own pockets for extra services.
A spokesman for Public Interest Alberta, a group representing about 15 seniors organizations across the province, said the plan threatens public health care and puts low-income seniors at risk.
"It's just horrendous that they're not committing to increase the capacity of our public health-care system, and boldly, flat-out say they're going to open up the pricing of seniors' care so that more private corporations can come in and build more long-term care facilities," said Bill Moore-Kilgannon.
Large private corporations have been lobbying for such changes, he said, adding they follow a model that has proven extremely costly in the United States.
"What this will do is further open up seniors and their families to huge increases in the price of long-term care without any government oversight, at the end of the day."
In addition to opening more assisted-living facilities, seniors' lodges and long-term care facilities, Liepert said there will be a focus on encouraging seniors to live independently as long as they can.
The minister said there are as many as 1,000 people in hospitals waiting for access to long-term care beds and as many as 500 more on the waiting list currently being cared for at home.
Many of these people could stay out of long-term care beds with enhanced community supports, such as home care, support for family caregivers and more alternative living arrangements, he said.
That's nonsense, said David Eggen, executive director of the Friends of Medicare
"There's an urgent need for more spaces in this province now and this plan freezes the long-term care spaces for an unspecified number of years," he said.
"This idea that people are going to get miraculously better, it just flies in the face of reason and of medicine, as well."
However, Liepert and Seniors Minister Mary Anne Jablonski said they have been given a clear message from Albertans.
"One gentleman said to me, 'I would crawl across broken glass to be able to keep my wife in our home,' " said Jablonski. "I've heard that in more than one place."
"As Albertans age, they are living longer, many with chronic diseases and mobility issues, that requires care, monitoring and medications."
Liepert said the province will also provide more money for home-care providers. The details won't be known until the budget, but he said there would probably be a wage increase for these workers, who have been hard to recruit in part due to low pay.
Monday's continuing-care strategy is the latest part of the Alberta government's Health Action Plan, a wide-ranging set of health reforms that has elicited concern from opposition parties over a potential for increased privatization.
The issue and accusations of wanting to create a two-tiered health system has dogged Alberta politics for years.
In 2000, former premier Ralph Klein and the federal Liberals engaged in a sort of political standoff over the Alberta government's passage of a bill to allow private clinics to keep patients overnight.
Ottawa said it would monitor the provincial bill and promised to fine Alberta if the legislation violated the Canada Health Act, which promises free, universal access to health care.
Klein later promoted a "Third Way" for health that would keep a basic standard of public care but allow patients to pay more for high-end services. The proposal was eventually scrapped when Klein announced he was stepping down.
The government of Premier Ed Stelmach, however, has promised it will live up to medicare's principles of universal access.