There are concerns about the implications of a provincial review that recommends replacing 1,300 long-term care beds in Alberta with supportive living beds. (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives photo)

There are concerns about the implications of a provincial review that recommends replacing 1,300 long-term care beds in Alberta with supportive living beds. (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives photo)

Central Alberta seniors say the region can’t afford to lose more long-term care beds

Review recommends turning some LTC beds into supportive living beds in Alberta

Moving 1,300 seniors from long term into supportive living beds would increase costs to families and decrease care, say some Red Deer advocates, concerned about proposed changes to seniors’ care in Alberta.

It’s a “horrific” attempt to balance the provincial budget on the backs of older Albertans, as far as Margaret Day, a board member of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, is concerned.

“I think that’s very cruel,” adds Day, who predicts much “upset and distress” if the Alberta government acts on this recommendation, which is part of a provincial review of Alberta Health Services.

Ernst and Young was asked to examine all aspects of health care provision in the province, and the independent consultant came up with 57 proposals designed to improve care while cutting costs.

The most impactful one on Alberta seniors calls for potentially switching some 1,300 long-term care beds to designated supportive living beds. The less intensive staffing level that would result from the change would save the government $32 million.

But, by moving that many seniors out of long-term care, the government would no longer have to cover their medications, medical supplies and equipment. These costs would then shift to patients and their families, says Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.

“It will mean a significant increase in out-of-pocket costs.”

Not all of the recommendations will be adopted immediately, as AHS has stated some will take more exploring.

According to Alberta Health, the review recommends that seniors be placed in the right level of continuing care for their assessed needs, “so they can live as independently as possible. Placing people in long-term care when their needs don’t warrant it is inappropriate care; it’s bad for the patient and it’s bad for the system.”

French is also concerned about the reduced staffing levels proposed in the review, saying, “There is no other result possible from reducing staffing levels than to have lower quality care.”

Jane Grenier-Frank, president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, feels this would have a “huge implication,” as she’s already hearing complaints about inadequate staffing levels in some long-term care facilities.

Grenier-Frank isn’t sure long-term care beds could be reduced in this area, as there’s an existing shortage of nursing home spots in central Alberta.

One women she knows has been transferred out of Red Deer hospital to Rimbey until a long-term care bed opens up in Lacombe. This woman hopes to end up in a Red Deer nursing home when there’s space, says Grenier-Frank.

Since another recommendation in the review calls for the further privatization of nursing homes, the Central Alberta Council on Aging plans to have a meeting to discuss these proposals with area seniors before deciding how to formally respond to government.

Seniors