(Advocate file photo.)

Shortfalls in seniors’ health programs to be discussed at Red Deer forum

More nursing home spots, universal medication coverage are needed

Central Alberta seniors need better access to long-term care, better pharmaceutical coverage and better hospital resources, say the Friends of Medicare.

The group is holding a forum along with Public Interest Alberta on Wednesday, March 6, aimed at raising awareness of existing gaps in seniors’ health care needs. It will be held at 7 p.m. the Golden Circle in Red Deer.

Friends of Medicare’s local spokesperson Sam Denhaan said various issues will be discussed — including the lack of nursing home beds in the region.

While investments have been made in seniors’ housing options, most new spaces are for supportive or assisted living, not long-term care, said Denhaan. “There are long wait lists (for nursing home spots), and many seniors have been waiting in hospitals for a bed to open up.”

Having seniors unnecessarily taking up hospital beds leaves less spots available for sick patients. As well, hospitals cannot provide recreational opportunities or other things necessary for quality of life in the longer-term, he added.

Forum discussions will include a run-down on the more complicated assessments seniors now face before being judged to be ready for nursing home placement.

“There are so many different designations of care now, the assessments can be hard to understand,” he added. Speakers will attempt to shed light on this new process.

The forum will also discuss a need for better local acute care resources. Dr. Kym Jim, of the Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta, will discuss Red Deer hospital’s lack of beds, operating rooms and a cardiac catheterization laboratory.

The need for a universal pharmaceutical coverage program is also on the agenda, said Denhaan.

Seniors get about 70 per cent of their drug costs paid for by the province, but the remaining 30 per cent can be unaffordable for some people who have to take expensive medications, said Denhaan.

He believes an advantage of having the province pay for 100 per cent of drug coverage is the overall cost of the medications will be lower since the government will have better bargaining power with pharmaceutical companies.

The forum will include a questions and answer session. Denhaan hopes it helps make seniors more aware of what the issues are so they can question candidates running in the upcoming provincial election.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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