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Advocates concerned by Alberta Health Services plan to cut the number of home care providers
Edmonton Journal ^ | 02 June 2013 | Otiena Ellwand

Posted on 07/10/2013 8:31:45 AM PDT by Lorianne

EDMONTON — Clients and family members are worried about what will happen to them under a plan by Alberta Health Services to eliminate two-thirds of the organizations providing personal home care.

AHS is expected to reduce the number of contractors in this field to 10 from 32 in July, a move that will save the province more than $18 million annually.

Vicki Johnston, 66, has multiple sclerosis and receives help from three home care workers five days a week and twice on weekends. They help her dress, wash, stay mobile and get into bed at night.

Without them, she would probably need a long-term care bed, she says.

“I’ve had the same care workers from the same agency since 2008, and you have to understand what an intimate relationship you form with these people,” she says. “What the government is doing here is disrupting life. They have no idea what they’re doing. They’re flying by the seat of their pants as far as I can see, they have no idea, they’re ripping peoples’ lives apart.”

There are 15,500 home care clients in Edmonton. About 7,500 of them are covered by one of the contracted companies, which supply assistance after surgery, help for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, and deal with palliative care.

“Having fewer operators to work with is going to really enable us to work on improvements and advance improvements in the home care area,” says David O’Brien, senior vice-president for primary and community care at AHS.

“It’s also delivering $18.5 million of savings to taxpayers that we can now reinvest in providing more services, and that’s a key element to it.”

The 10 providers expected to be handed new contracts cannot be named until the recommendations are approved by the AHS board next week. The remaining 22 contracts are likely to be terminated in July, but may be extended if more transition time is needed for clients, O’Brien says.

Dawn Munro and her 91-year-old mother Clara also rely on the system.

Dawn says she wouldn’t be able to hold a full-time job if a care worker didn’t come in five-and-a-half hours each week to look after her mother, who has dementia.

“I can’t be gone for eight hours and have her alone. She gets too disoriented to know if she’s eaten an hour ago, and she has diabetes, high blood pressure and she has dementia. The pills have to be given on time. It would absolutely devastate our entire living situation if it wasn’t available.”

Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, says the change will stretch a system that’s already at its limit.

“When you cut down and amalgamate providers, ultimately it always results in cutting of staffing and moving around of staffing and making people have to go through the whole system again. There’s no consistency,” she says.

“People build relationships over time with their caregivers and that’s going to be taken away. Right now, the clients and patients don’t know who their next caregiver is going to be. So there’s a lot of turmoil happening for people that need stability in their lives.”

O’Brien says employees of companies that lose contracts should be able to get work with one of the other providers, a process AHS plans to facilitate.

He couldn’t say whether they would be paid the same or receive a similar benefits package.

AHS requested proposals from providers and then assessed them based on their capability, quality of service, the abilities of their staff and management, whether clients would have to move to a new firm, and the rates the companies were willing to accept.

Friends of Medicare is holding a town hall meeting on the issue June 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Edmonton Ironworkers’ Union local 720, 10512 122nd St.

TOPICS: Canada; Government

1 posted on 07/10/2013 8:31:45 AM PDT by Lorianne
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