Wildrose could help save Red Deer nursing homes

Local seniors looking to save two Red Deer nursing homes from closure may have an unexpected ally — Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith.

Local seniors looking to save two Red Deer nursing homes from closure may have an unexpected ally — Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith.

The leader of the right-wing party said addressing the wait list of seniors for long-term care is “absolutely a priority” so they don’t end up in a hospital bed that costs the public health care system $30,000 a month.

“We need to restore local control. We need to allow those successful programs that continue to attract patients to be able to continue doing so,” Smith said.

The decision to close Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home was made before Alberta amalgamated all its health regions into one. But recent protests by seniors and Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, with support from Alberta NDP and Liberals, to reverse the decision have been ignored by Alberta Health Services. Residents from the two facilities will be moved to Extendicare Canada’s new Michener Hill Village, which is expected to open in September.

Michener Hill will have 220 long-term care beds giving the city only four more long term care beds and 60 more supportive living beds. In May, 232 people in the Central Zone of Alberta Health Services were waiting for a long-term care bed, including 52 in Red Deer. Another 108 were waiting for supportive living beds, 46 of them in Red Deer.

The new continuing care facility at Michener Hill Village will be publicly funded, but will be run by Extendicare Canada, a for-profit company.

Smith said private companies can actually help reduce costs as it did for cataract surgery in Calgary where most surgeries are performed in private clinics for $535 per eye, while in Edmonton, most surgeries are done in hospital for $900 per eye.

“We’ve seen it work in cataract surgeries. We’ve seen it work with hip and knee replacements. It will work in a variety of other areas as well.”

The public system may not seek profit, but it does have costly, multi-layered of bureaucracy, she said.

“The problem is that we’ve got a bureaucracy system not seeking to find the efficiencies.

“What happens in the private sector is that they try to find a way to be as lean on the administrative side as possible to have more front-line delivery.”

Smith calls Alberta Health Services a micro-managing disaster that is failing on multiple fronts.

Decisions on issues and requests at the local level are delayed and are sent up through up a costly chain of managers. Meanwhile, AHS is not sharing best practices and correcting worst practices, she said.

“That’s not happening because they’re so mired in the day-to-day decision making. This is the reason why we have a system costing more than ever and delivering worse and worse performance.”