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Long-term care questions

We see in recent media reports that at the opening of the 2014 session of the legislature, the Redford government is proposing to offer public lands to private and non-profit companies to leverage more long-term care facilities and affordable housing for seniors.

“Your government will consider options, including the use of provincial land, to meet the commitment to build new continuing-care centres,” Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell said in last wee’s throne speech.

Health Minister Fred Horne said he couldn’t provide details of the plan before Thursday’s budget, but confirmed the province is considering using strategically located Crown land to spur development of much-needed facilities.

“We are looking at what land is available in Alberta and how that might play into some of the development we want to do in the area of continuing care, but also in affordable housing for seniors,” Horne said in an interview. “It’s an asset that is available to work with operators who want to develop.”

Horne said the plan keys on building partnerships between government and companies that work in the field — not-for-profit, private and also government entities such as Carewest and Capital Care.

“We want to focus on independent living as much as possible,” he said. “We’re looking at ways to use technology to help people stay in their homes longer and be monitored remotely. The way ahead isn’t just building spaces. Part of the solution is what can we do ... to help people at home.”

We all know there is need, but the reporting on wait times and local placements for long-term care continue to be impossible to get. The Alberta Liberals released images of a 2012-13 quarterly performance report — which was recently published and subsequently deleted from the Alberta Health Services (AHS) website.

The recent opening of the Villa Marie care centre with our MLAs Cal Dallas and Mary Anne Jablonski in attendance was a welcome addition to seniors accommodation in our community. The hundred new supportive living beds will allow the people (who due to contract termination have to leave the Harmony Aspenridge) to move in.

The 24 “memory care” units intended for people with mild dementia will allow them to remain close to family and loved ones. We were told that 300 applications were received for the 100 new beds in this facility. This is an indication, however, of the need for lower cost government supported accommodation in our area.

Meanwhile, Red Deer and Central Alberta citizens continue to experience waiting and placement of patients in long-term care far away from their communities due to shortage of space. This in spite of providing provincially-owned lands and large grants to private and not-for-profit corporations. We in Red Deer have seen this approach in 2005 at Bethany CollegeSide built on publicly owned Red Deer College land, and in 2010 with the sale to Extendicare of provincial land. The Extendicare property conditions of sale were never disclosed; but extensive private housing and condo development has been a major benefit to this private, for-profit multinational company.

It is no surprise that this private partnership (P3) type of development continues and that the Alberta government considers offering public land to private companies for long-term-facilities. It has helped to buffer direct accountability of the Health and Seniors Departments to those needing long-term care as it continues to obscure available bed wait times and lower quality of care.

The Red Deer and Valley Park Nursing Home properties empty since 2010 continue to sit idle. We wonder what Horne’s “building partnerships between government and companies” may bring to these properties. Our MLAs need to do a better job of reporting to the community on this.

Sam Denhaan

Red Deer



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