Brian Jean, leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition, met with residents and their family members of a privately-owned seniors’ home in Red Deer on Friday afternoon.
Jean was joined by MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Don MacIntyre and MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr at Community Care Cottages in Red Deer, a private long-term care residence.
Their message to the NDP government was to look at alternative ways to provide better care for seniors which they believe includes a partnership between the private and public sector.
“There is a program here in the province regarding Home Care. It’s a program that allows seniors to be in a home facility like this (Community Care Cottages). It is an actual home environment,” said MacIntyre. “The cost of care is a fraction of the care in a institutionalized setting and it’s been proven, there is tons of research on this. When you have seniors who have issues and they are in a home environment, where their family can come and see them, where there are caregivers right in the home, they do much better – they are healthier, longer.”
He said another factor with what they believe is wrong with the current system is, “Divorce by nursing home.”
“In this kind of an environment here, we have couples staying here. They have differing need levels, but nevertheless, they are both in this facility. These husbands and wives have been together for 50-60 years and without this kind of environment, they would be split up.
“The issue seems to be that because this is operated as a private entity, it’s not a government-run facility, there are some gatekeepers within the bureaucracy that are impeding families’ ability to access the funding that already exists for this program.”
Jean added there are about one million new seniors a year in the country, so now is the time this needs to be addressed.
“It’s a demographic that’s rising at an alarming rate – somewhere in the neighbourhood of 70,000 (new seniors) in Alberta alone every single year,” he said. “This is a group of individuals that we are going to see a higher and higher demand – not only in health care in particular, but in finding alternatives to having seniors stay in health care facilities and health care beds. The fraction of the cost is as staggering – I have heard figures as startling as $11,000-$15,000 a day in a health care system, a hospital, versus $3,000 a month to be in a facility like this.
“We would encourage the government to set aside their ideological view on this and work with the experts that are on the ground, working with the seniors right across the province and find the best outcome for the seniors.”
Moving forward, Jean said the NDP government needs to be made aware the private sector can be a good partner with the public sector to provide the best quality of care for seniors.
“That is to make sure that when they need health care, when they need a hospital, they are close a proximity to it and they get to a hospital. But they certainly shouldn’t be staying in the hospitals longer than necessary – as you are aware, sick people stay in the hospital and seniors are very susceptible to that. Unless they are particularly ill, they should not be in the hospital,” said Jean, adding a public/private sector partnership would benefit the province. “It is because it creates opportunity for people to be able to have choice in where they want to go, instead of having the state assign them to a particular home and to be ‘divorced by nursing home’. The government is not very good at running facilities such as this and they don’t offer any alternatives which means it costs more money and provides less services.”