Alberta’s largest union has concerns over how Rachel Notley’s NDP government is fulfilling a campaign promise to add 2,000 new long-term care spaces across the province.
The government has set aside $365 million in its current capital budget for long-term care and dementia spaces. However, some of that funding is being used through the Affordable Supporting Living Initiative (ASLI), which provides funding to a number of different providers, including private-for-profit organizations.
“Over the next two years, there will be more long-term care beds but it will be in the private sector,” Guy Smith, the president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said.
“There’s better levels of care provided in the public system, there’s less bureaucracy and there’s more money going directly to care.”
As proof, Smith points to a report from the Parkland Institute that found private continuing care operators provided a lower standard of care when compared to public facilities.
Of Alberta’s 24,947 publicly-funded continuing care beds, 40 per cent are operated by private providers, 30 per cent are run by non-profit organizations while 29 per cent are run by Alberta Health Services or its subsidiaries.
“I really like that we have a variety of options available,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said. “I would encourage people to look at the reviews we have on our website, of the audits that happen at these different facilities, and be able to draw their own conclusions.”
Hoffman says the NDP inherited 31 ASLI projects from the outgoing Progressive Conservative government. After reviewing them, her office eventually approved 25 of them and was able to increase the number of long-term and dementia care beds included in those projects.
The government isn’t currently accepting any more proposals through the ASLI program but the minister wouldn’t rule it out, as long as they’re able to increase the number of beds available for waiting seniors.
“Before we make decisions on how to move forward, I think it’s best that we consider all of our options,” she said. “That’s what I’ve asked my department, and my staff, to do.”
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