Still no answers on waits for long-term care beds
I am encouraged that questions posed on delivery of health care continue to be asked by Canadian and Alberta citizens and professionals. I continue to advocate for adequate reporting by Alberta Health Services on wait times.
The Canadian Medical Association released an Ipsos Read Poll result indicating 93 per cent of Canadians surveyed want a national strategy for senior’s health. It should address home care, long-term, hospital and hospice care. Home care is seen as a most effective means of lightening the load on the other services.
It should be noted that the 2004 Federal Provincial Health Care Agreement specifically targeted federal funding for home care. However, the agreement lacked adequate monitoring and assurance that the transfer funds would be spent to improve and maintain home care. The Harper government has stated they will continue some level of funding, but it will be without strings attached claiming that since the provinces are responsible for health care, they will allocate the funds as they please.
The Alberta government has gone a step further in devolution of responsibility for health care, leaving Alberta Health Services to deliver care from a provincewide system, with little or no requirement for local public reporting.
The Alberta Health Quality Council has reported problems involving patient wait times and “administration confusion.” The Vertes Commission on queue-jumping recommended that advocates for wait times advise patients and help them resolve problems. In Red Deer, we continue have these problems.
Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services fails to report to the Alberta public on wait times for people needing long-term care beds. They have not been able or willing to report to Alberta communities on long-term care waitlists. Since 2010, I have been communicating on this with Alberta Health Services (AHS). I have also asked our MLA Cal Dallas and Health Minister Fred Horne, and even Premier Alison Redford for assistance, to no avail. The questions are simple:
l How many people are waiting in hospital for a long-term care bed?
l How many people are waiting at home for a long-term care bed?
l How many people are waiting in nursing homes many miles away, to return to a long-term care bed in their own home communities?
Prior to 2008, similar information was regularly provided by the David Thompson Health Region when it was still in operation. It is ironic that in this information age, Alberta Health Services is unable or unwilling to do this now.
The AHS-provided quarterly zone information in the Performance Dashboard Central Zone Format on the AHS website is difficult to find, has a lack of detail, and is not useful to average people.
Does AHS report to the general public or are their operations secret?
Are there waitlists for long-term care?
Where and how many patients are waiting for beds?
How long do patients have to wait?
To be effective, reporting should be on a regular point in time, monthly or bi-monthly schedule. It should provide the location and number of funded beds, giving additions and deletions in each category of care.
AHS has confirmed that they do monthly data gathering. This information is used internally. I urgently ask that it be made available to inform the public. I believe that by establishing a regular reporting system, AHS will fulfil its obligations for accountability and transparency and will raise its image and profile.
The long-term care wait time reporting asked for is needed not only for Red Deer but for all communities and areas across the province.