Albertans need to ask why the province is continuing to give away taxpayers’ dollars to companies to build and run seniors care facilities, says Public Interest Alberta.
On Thursday, the province announced $180 million in Affordable Supportive Living Initiative grants to companies to create 2,612 continuing care spaces in 31 seniors housing projects in 18 communities across Alberta.
Red Deer is getting 180 spaces, including 60 long-term care beds at Covenant Care Villa Marie and 120 beds (likely supportive living Level 4 beds) to be built by H&H Total Care Services Inc. for the new facility called The Hamlets of Red Deer.
Covenant Care received a $5.1-million grant for its $13-million addition. Grant information for H&H was not available.
“We are fundamentally subsidizing the creation and expansion of a corporately-run seniors care system. If these are our schools, our hospitals, I think people would be much more up in arms,” said Bill Moore Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta. “Why should we be pouring millions of taxpayers’ dollars into these private corporations to run these facilities?”
Grant recipients are required to maintain the units at government-established rates for 30 years.
He said it’s questionable whether the public is getting good value and good care by having corporations run seniors care.
Both Kilgannon and Brenda Corney, chairperson of the Red Deer Chapter of Friends of Medicare, agreed that more details need to be disclosed about public-private partnerships in seniors care.
“We will lack details because anything that’s a private, for-profit thing is protected. Like with Extendicare Michener Hill, there was information the public couldn’t get because it was a private corporation,” Corney said.
The two publicly owned and operated facilities, Valley Park Manor with 116 beds and Red Deer Nursing Home with 99, were closed in the fall of 2010 when the public-funded, privately-operated Extendicare opened.
But Corney likes the idea of getting 60 more long-term care beds in Red Deer.
“That’s going to help. There’s no way that can’t help. The government is at least hearing it’s a necessity. For awhile, it didn’t seem like that,” Corney said.
Kilgannon said increasing the number of long-term care beds is probably due to the pressure government is getting from all directions, particularly front-line health professionals, about the number of seniors in acute care hospital beds waiting for continuing care beds.
Alberta Health Services, Central Zone says there are 55 people in Red Deer waiting for continuing care beds, which includes those waiting in acute care beds in Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.