Column: Seniors’ care faulted in throne speech responses

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Age Gazette: A look at aging-related events and trends in Alberta, Canada and beyond

by Colin Smith

Read more of his columns at www.agegazette.blogspot.ca

Not a lot was said about seniors in the Alberta government’s speech from the throne least week. In the speech given by Lieutenant-Governor Donald S. Ethell at the March 3 opening of the second session of 28th Alberta Legislature, the government congratulated itself for building a seniors’ care home in Strathmore.

It also stated the government will “invest in better seniors’ care, focusing funding on aging in place and on innovative new technology that allows patients to recover in their own homes,” and said Crown land may be made available for new continuing care centres.

However, in their responses to the throne speech in the legislature, several members of the opposition parties had plenty to say, honing in on current deficiencies and setting out how they would do it better.

“Well we don’t have to look back on what’s happening to the seniors in our province or some of the horrible, horrible things that we’ve seen,” said Heather Forsyth, Wildrose MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek. “The government doesn’t seem to understand that the fact of the matter is that while we appreciate what they’re doing in continuing care spaces, we have seniors in this province that need to be in long-term care nursing beds.”
Forsyth noted that people such as Dr. Paul Parks had frequently spoken out about the need for building long-term care nursing beds because not everyone fits into the continuing care model.

“I saw that with my own mom, who was in a continuing care facility and ended up in the hospital,” she said.

The MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, Joe Anglin, also a Wildrose member, said he sees significant issues with the long-term care facility in Rocky Mountain House. Anglin pointed to understaffing that has resulted in residents being served cold food and not even being able to get the two meals a week to which they are entitled.

“What’s happening here — and to a T every one of the front-line healthcare workers in this long-term care facility…will testify that this now is an extreme example, and it’s a critical situation, where proper care is not being delivered,” he said.

“The cutbacks have been too great,” Anglin went on. “We have an imbalance in the system. I wish Rocky Mountain House was the only place, but it’s not. We’re seeing it elsewhere, in other places in the province, and this is a real issue that affects us.”

As a result of government actions, increased healthcare costs are putting a strain on seniors and their families stated David Eggen, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Calder.

“We’ve somehow moved it out of the provincial budget, and so many more people are having to pay for care for seniors with assisted living and so forth. That price, that burden, is often more than families can afford.

Eggen believes however that care for seniors is not a drastic problem for society.

“We knew that the baby boom would be passing through our demographic for the last 50 years,” he said. “It’s arrived now, and with planning and with care we can build the public seniors’ care that we require for these next number of years.”

Seniors would benefit from major investments in healthcare under a New Democrat government, said party leader Brian Mason, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

He said a plan for the $1 billion extra in federal health transfers Alberta will begin receiving next year would see the government investing in long-term care and home care and reducing prescription drug costs for seniors, along with supporting mental health care, and expanding medical and nursing programs.

According to Liberal leader Raj Sherman, Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA, a government he headed would bring in world-class home care, non-profit community home care and lodge care and world-class non-profit community-based long-term care.

“Alberta Liberals will bring in a drug plan so that seniors can afford their drugs, unlike the government who wants to bring in a drug plan that’s a tax on the sick,” he added. “If seniors can afford to get their get their drugs, they will actually stay out of the hospital system. We know this investment in a drug plan will improve their lives and save us money in the acute-care system.”

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