Huge crowd meets MLA Jablonski at Council on Aging meeting

A huge turnout speaks volumes about the fears seniors have about changes in health and housing systems, says the MLA for Red Deer North.

Seniors and Supports Minister Mary Anne Jablonski addresses a packed house at the Golden Circle Tuesday.

A huge turnout speaks volumes about the fears seniors have about changes in health and housing systems, says the MLA for Red Deer North.

Mary Anne Jablonski, minister of Seniors and Community Supports, faced a crowd of 250 to 300 people today during her opening address to the annual general meeting of the Central Alberta Council on Aging.

Interviewed afterward, Jablonski said she knows people are scared and hopes that she was able to provide them with some assurances about changes being made in senior support and health care programs.

She defended the province’s decision to disband its regional health boards and create a single system, headed by CEO Stephen Duckett at an annual salary of nearly $600,000.

Duckett’s pay is normal rate for a high-level executive, and now the province is paying only one CEO instead of nine, Jablonski told the crowd.

Eliminating regions also means that services are available to all Albertans in all parts of the province, she said.

Among the concerns Jablonski will take back with her relates to a question regarding the five income brackets being used to determine the level of services which will be provided to each senior.

One woman in the crowd said that it’s unfair to miss a lower income bracket by only one dollar, only to get the same reduced level of service as someone on the high end of the scale within that same bracket.

Jablonski said she will take the message back to Edmonton that five brackets may not be enough to ensure that people can afford services.

She also attempted to allay concerns about proposals to close acute care beds currently occupied by people who should be in long-term care.

Sam Denhaan, president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, said after Jablonski’s address that she is to be congratulated for tackling a tough job.

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