Wildrose MLA presses ahead with seniors bill

Wildrose seniors critic Kerry Towle says seniors need a non-partisan advocate in their corner to help fight their battles.

Wildrose seniors critic Kerry Towle says seniors need a non-partisan advocate in their corner to help fight their battles.

That’s why she’s getting ready for second reading of her private member’s bill, the Seniors’ Advocate Act, to create an independent seniors’ advocate as an office of the legislature.

Second reading for Bill 208 is slated for Monday in the legislature. If time runs out that day, it may be held over until Nov. 2.

“(The province) created the Children’s and Youth Advocate and the purpose of that advocate was to help the vulnerable, help them navigate the system, and ensure the people in care are kept safe. I would argue that’s exactly the same argument that could be made for seniors,” Towle said.

The Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA said some will argue the Protection for Persons In Care Act should be enough.

But staff report directly to the Health minister so it’s not realistic that they would go against what the minister wants.

“People come to me because I’m the seniors critic. However, when I raise these issues with the minister of Health, inevitably his argument always is, ‘As member of the opposition you’re just making it worse than it is or that’s a one-off.’ ”

Towle said a seniors’ advocate would not answer to a provincial government department, just like the Children’s and Youth Advocate.

“It can be objective. It can find the weaknesses in the system, but it can also find the strengths. It has the ability to act on any complaint that it hears whether it be anonymous or identified. It has the ability to take the complaint directly from the senior, family member or even from the legislature.”

An advocate would have the ability to audit, investigate, provide recommendations to the legislature, and make its reports public, she said.

Seniors face difficult issues like Alberta Services’ “divorce-by-nursing-home” policy that allows married couples in long-term care to be split up. The distance that seniors can be separated has been reduced, but the policy should be scraped altogether. Getting more than one bath a week remains a problem for seniors in care despite the government’s promise of two baths a week, she said.

“It’s not reality. There’s not enough resources for front-line workers to do two baths a week,” Towle said.

The advocate could represent seniors from around the province in the legislature by highlighting policy problems and demanding timely solutions.

Other duties could include assisting in appeals or reviewing decisions relating to long-term care or residential care, representing seniors under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act, and advocating on other regulated matters.

The seniors’ advocate could also investigate any systemic issues arising from a serious injury.

Towle urges Albertans to contact their MLAs and get them to support Bill 208.

People can share their views on Bill 208 by emailing Innisfail.SylvanLake@assembly.ab.ca, by calling 1-888-655-2535, following her on Twitter, @KerryTowleMLA or on Facebook.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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