AHS reverses cuts to home, palliative and continuing care

Alberta Health Services has reversed several decisions affecting palliative, home care and continuing care.

EDMONTON — Alberta Health Services has reversed several decisions affecting palliative, home care and continuing care.

It said Tuesday that it won’t cancel home care contracts with three Edmonton-based supportive living co-operatives.

AHS says that’s because it recognizes the unique, specialized care the three — Abbey Road Housing Co-operative, Artspace Housing Co-operative and Creekside Support Services — provide.

As well, the “first available bed” policy which required continuing care residents to accept a placement within 100 kilometres of their home has also been withdrawn, effective immediately.

AHS has also reached an agreement with 13 home care providers to provide care and support to Calgary and Edmonton clients as home care services expand.

The changes come almost a week after Health Minister Fred Horne fired the entire AHS board over its refusal to cancel $3.2 million in bonuses for health executives and appointed Janet Davidson as an administrator.

Dr. Chris Eagle, president and CEO of AHS, says the agency has acted quickly to ensure patient care is not compromised.

“After consulting with Ms. Davidson, we agree on the need to tackle both the policy change and how we arrived at that policy,” Eagle said in a news release.

“It’s the right time to reflect on whether the changes we’re making are what’s best for residents and how we can more effectively engage the community in general, and seniors in particular.”

Horne said the changes will maintain a quality of life Albertans deserve.

“We want our seniors to age alongside the ones they love. Decisions about continuing care placement must start with supporting seniors as close to home as possible, and doing all we can to keep couples together,” he said in a news release.

Reaction from opposition parties were mostly positive.

NDP health critic Dave Eggen credits the reversal of the decision on the Edmonton co-operatives to the hard work and advocacy of the residents and boards of the groups.

“The PCs can’t be trusted to provide the health care that Albertans need, but today’s reversal shows this government can count on Albertans to call them out on their broken promises and mismanagement of Alberta’s health care.

“These co-ops have proven that non-profit models provide a high quality of care at a fraction of the cost that big corporate home care providers are prepared to offer.”

But Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said what was announced Tuesday is insufficient.

“The reality of the situation is that this is nothing more than a ruse. The Redford Conservatives are still moving ahead with their policy of corporatizing home care by granting $371 million in contracts to Ontario-based private for-profit corporate providers,” Sherman said in a news release.

“Thousands of elderly and disabled Albertans will still have the quality of their home care impacted as non-profit providers are shunted aside in favour of corporate providers. Any corporation’s primary duty is to maximize return for their shareholders. Inevitably, the pressure to make a profit will lead to lower wages and benefits for caregivers, higher turnover, and a lower quality of care.”

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth called the moves a good first step to ensure the quality of care for patients won’t be immediately impacted.

“Ultimately, the decision to centralize home care providers means less choice and less quality of care for patients who have a very personal relationship with their caregivers,” Forsyth said.

“This should be a message for those throughout the health care community that if we come together as Albertans we can push the government to reverse decisions that will harm patient care.”