NDP wants more support for seniors’ housing during crisis

by Morinville News Staff

Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition is calling for six months of 20 per cent surge funding above monthly operating costs to seniors’ housing providers to prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19.

The NDP says that despite seniors’ housing administrators taking needed steps to protect vulnerable seniors in their facilities, many administrators and stakeholders are expressing concerns about the impact the COVID-19 on staff and supports provided to seniors.

The opposition cites a letter written a week ago by Wynne Shapka to Health Minister Tyler Shandro. The letter expressed her concerns for her mother with dementia residing in a seniors’ housing facility and her hopes the government would commit to providing adequate levels of care during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The facility and staff are wonderful, but there are many other residents at progressed stage dementia at the facility, who depend on family members and privately-hired caregivers to provide basic needs,” Shapka said. “These family members and most caregivers are not allowed access at this time because of the coronavirus. This puts families in crisis now.”

The NDP says increasing support to the operational budgets of seniors’ housing facilities would help expand staff capacity, ensure personal protective equipment and screening resources are available for residents and staff.

“Seniors may have complex needs and families play a vital role, ensuring those needs are met. Due to the strict restrictions on family members entering facilities, they are no longer able to assist as they did previously,” said NDP Seniors and Housing Critic Lori Sigurdson. “Also, while we recognize the need to prevent transmission, staff taking precautions to self-isolate for various reasons creates shortages of qualified professionals at a challenging time. I’ve heard some facilities only have skeleton staff and are needing to recruit and train new staff. This two-fold challenging situation is putting seniors at risk.”

Thursday afternoon’s update from Chief Medical Officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, indicated the province had identified 17 cases of COVID-19 in staff and residents in continuing care facilities in the province.

Sigurdson said she knows healthcare staff is doing their best to ensure services continue while staff complying with the orders of the Chief Medical Officer.

“But we also know health care workers are at higher risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 and must take all precautions necessary,” Sigurdson said. “This may mean they must self-isolate, which takes them away from their duties and the staff still on-site have to do more – sometimes double shifts. This isn’t good for the workers or seniors.”