Minister’s response to questions disappoints

The board of directors and members of the Central Alberta Council on Aging invited Minister of Seniors and Community Supports and Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski to address our annual general meeting on Oct. 6 at the Golden Circle.

The board of directors and members of the Central Alberta Council on Aging invited Minister of Seniors and Community Supports and Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski to address our annual general meeting on Oct. 6 at the Golden Circle.

This followed up on three previous meetings with her and Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas, where we presented a long list of questions on health and long-term care to them.

At our Sept. 25 meeting, Jablonski promised to answer our questions in her Oct. 6 presentation. These questions are in three main areas, and they include:

Elder Care and Accommodation, Home Care, and the Alberta Pharmaceutical Strategy (April 23 version)

•l At last count there were some 1,600 Albertans waiting a for long-term-care beds, most of whom are occupying hospital beds. The government 2020 vision proposal provides for no increase in long-term care beds. Please explain specifically how the government plans provide beds for all of the present and future Albertans that need them?

• In 2010 Extendicare Michener Park will replace Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor (200 combined beds) with 220 new beds, this does not have capacity for the present or for the future. How will this be resolved?

• Will the people being transferred from Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home all be placed in the new continuing care beds at the same fee?

• How will Michener Park be staffed? Will the present staff from Valley Park and Red Deer Nursing Homes be offered positions? Will they be allowed to maintain their union agreement and be paid union rates, and will they be able to carry their pension benefits and seniority with them?

Accountability and transparency of publicly funded, private for profit facilities must be provided to the public.

The provincially owned land was sold to Extendicare and Medican. What was the price paid?

A government grant of $4.5 million was made on June 12, 2006, to Extendicare (supposedly to reduce supportive living charges for residents). How will it be accounted for to the public? When will this be explained?

When Michener Park opens, what will happen to the existing Valley Park and Red Deer Nursing home buildings and sites?

The new designations of senior care and accommodation are unclear and confusing; they promote unbundling and will create unwarranted and unexpected extra cost for ,patients.

Home Care. In 2007 the David Thompson Health Region had the lowest home care budget relative to the number of seniors. This must be increased if potential home care targets can be achieved. When will this be done?

Home Care. Aides provide 65 per cent of care. Greater medical and physiotherapy skills must be provided, More hours of effective care is needed how will this be done by Alberta health Services?

More highly skilled home care staff must be trained and recruited and retained. How is this being done?

The new Alberta Pharmaceutical Strategy changed on April 23. It remains unfair to middle-income seniors.

There is no universality, it is still bureaucratic, inefficient and expensive to administer; there is a loss of privacy of personal income information, it ignores net income; it rewards those who can hide income; penalizes those who save for old age. How will this be made fair?

In 1999, a detailed booklet was issued by Health and Wellness titled Who is Accountable in Health? It must be updated so that ordinary people know who to contact when they are seeking services or have a problem.

Health Minister Ron Liepert has told us he will not update it “at this time.” Meanwhile how will we find our way in the chaos?

Minister Jablonski used a power point presentation to promote and reinforce her strategies, not answer our questions. This was not our intention and is a disappointment to us.

We Urge Minister Jablonski to keep her promise and answer our questions without further delay.

Recent coverage of the meeting by the Red Deer Advocate gave the minister an easy ride; my comments after the minister’s speech were not fully reported. They were: “For the record and with the greatest respect Minister Jablonski, the Central Alberta Council on Aging has continued to communicate grave concerns with the method and the content of the changes presented in the pharmaceutical and continuing care strategies. As you have heard, people here have a lot of concerns. You have a lot of work to do to fix that, and I wish you every success with that.”

While we are very happy with a large turnout and the respectful questions to the minister, we are again disappointed with the answers and replies from her.

We continue to urge all seniors to become informed about the changes coming from Alberta government, including thoughtful critical comment, which CACA offers in our handouts.

Everyone should have an opinion, because all will have to live with the consequences.

Sam Denhaan, President

Central Alberta

Council on Aging

Red Deer