Friends of Medicare says the crisis in seniors care happening at Symphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge is only the beginning.
Nearly 130 licensed practical nurses, health-care aides and other staff walked off the job on Monday after contract talks failed at the seniors care facility located at 3100 22nd St. in Red Deer.
Symphony, a privately owned and operated seniors care facility, has 152 suites with 157 residents.
Last week, Symphony announced it is cancelling its contract to provide 49 care beds for Alberta Health Services, saying wage demands from Alberta Union of Provincial Employees made it an unsustainable business model.
Symphony is contracted to provide Alberta Health Services with 40 assisted-living beds for dementia patients, four assisted-living beds for non-dementia patients and five transition beds for people coming out of hospital.
Last week, the province also announced a new equitable funding model based on the specific care needs for long-term residents across the province. It means some operators may have to adjust to more or less funding.
“With this new funding formula, we’re definitely going to see a lot more of this type of profit-driven behaviour. This funding formula that this government is implementing is certainly going to leave a lot of people without the type of profit margins that they’re used to getting,” said Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, who joined strikers on the picket line Wednesday afternoon.
Add to that the economic downturn in the province, she said.
Symphony Senior Living and the AUPE met last weekend but were unable to avoid the strike/lockout.
AUPE rejected Symphony Senior Living’s demand for the right to terminate any employee without cause.
Symphony argued it was a matter of having the ability to remove a worker for non-cause reasons such as lack of empathy, passion or dedication to seniors.
Sam Denhaan, member of Friends of Medicare, Red Deer Chapter, said AHS bears some responsibility for what’s happening at Aspen Ridge.
“They don’t want to be in the controversy, but they are in the controversy. If the deals were made without any kind of contractual obligation, that’s their fault. Quality control is part of the responsibility of Alberta Health Services,” Denhaan said on the picket line.
“Indeed, it’s part of the health minister’s responsibility.”
Previously, AHS said it is an external party to negotiations and would not comment on the job action but were monitoring care at Aspen Ridge on a daily basis.
Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas and Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski were unavailable to comment on Wednesday.