Airdrie MLA talks with residents about seniors care
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Jun 12, 2014 11:03 am
More than 150 people turned out to the Woodside Seniors Club on June 4 for a seniors town hall meeting, hosted by Wildrose MLAs Rob Anderson and Official Opposition Critic for Human Services and Seniors and MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Kerry Towle.
The two outlined what they perceive to be a lack of funding attention being paid to the province’s seniors by the Conservative Government and Alberta Health Services (AHS), more specifically in the field of long-term care.
“There are increasing problems with seniors housing and long-term care,” said Anderson. “This wasn’t an issue in the past, but with the growth we’re seeing in the province and in Airdrie specifically, it’s rapidly becoming an issue.”
The Airdrie MLA was mindful of the efforts of nurses in the province, especially at facilities like Airdrie’s Bethany Care Centre, but noted that resources are being stretched far too thin.
“I’m not here to bash Bethany, the people working there are doing the best that they can with limited resources,” Anderson said. “The issue is not that there is a lack of care, it’s just a lack of staff.”
Towle explained over the last two provincial budgets, funding has been reallocated from long-term care into rehabilitative care and that, “a substantial amount of funding has been taken from those in end-of-life care.”
“We have an obligation as a society to show compassion for the people who need it the most,” said Towle.
According to Towle, the exact amount of funding that has been reallocated is difficult to pinpoint as a result of a centralized healthcare model that funds multiple levels of care.
“Two years ago, AHS shifted to activity-based funding, so rather than a set operational dollar amount, the funding is allocated based on what activities the residents or clients need such as baths and food and places like Bethany Care Centre where a number of residents suffer with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they require more care and attention and there isn’t enough funding for staff to give them a proper level of care.”
Currently at Bethany Care Centre Airdrie, the staff operates at a ratio of one aid to every 13 residents, a number that Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at the centre Haley Brietzke says is not nearly enough.
“I’ve been an LPN for 29 years and at Bethany for 20 years and in all those years I’ve never had to leave at the end of the day hoping that I had actually got everything done, until now,” said Brietzke. “A year ago when the provincial budget came down, our staff was cut in half and with this year’s budget we weren’t given any insight as to whether or not we’d be getting more staff.”
The issue of shortages in staff and the requirement for nurses to do more with less is spread across the province in both continuing care facilities like Bethany, as well as hospitals.
“If we had even just one more aid working per shift (at Bethany) we would be in heaven,” said Brietzke.
“It’s not fair to our residents, they’re not getting the care they deserve.”
Airdrie resident Fiona Swickis attended the town hall on June 4, and shared her experience with shortages in nursing staff.
“My husband was staying at Bethany Care Centre and they did a great job, but he needed to go to the hospital last July and the treatment he got there was just terrible,” said Swickis.
“He walked in there on his own, a strong man, and over the four months he was there, he just wasted away, I was shocked at the level of care. The floor in his room was dirty, he was always just kept in his bed, there was a time I came in to visit him and he was sitting in a chair under the air conditioner and didn’t even have a blanket around him.”
Swickis’ husband Jim passed away last November.
Towle and Anderson listened to a number of stories similar to that of Swickis’ from those on hand, from nurses to residents to family members of those in long-term care.
Anderson made note of the spending habits of the Alberta Government, stating that the money is there but is being spent on “dumb investments,” such as carbon capture programs and consultations to purchase public art.
Both MLAs urged those in attendance to get involved and have their voices heard, with Anderson commending their patience.
“Seniors are just so patient, they really just roll with everything that’s put in front of them,” said Anderson.
“If we want to get something done we need to get people motivated and make this an issue that affects votes, I don’t care where the votes go, I would be happy to work with both the Liberals and the NDP on this issue.”