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Lethbridge residents worried about self-care management funding being cut

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WATCH: There are concerns that provincial health-care dollars used to assist people in their homes may be at risk. The concerns follow a provincial review of the self-managed care program and could impact a number of Lethbridge residents. Taz Dhaliwal has more – Mar 6, 2020

Some Lethbridge residents with disabilities have concerns about annual individual assessments of their provincial self-managed care, resulting in funding cuts.

MLA Shannon Phillips is hearing about it first hand.

Phillips says four constituents tell her this year’s questionnaire is longer, with more invasive questions.

READ MORE: Alberta government nixes AHS review recommendation to close 5 rural hospitals, Edmonton trauma centre

Her assistant, Lisa Lambert, says several clients have seen cuts of between $800 and $1,000 a month in self-managed care funding since the fall. Lambert says those constituents have gone through appeals but have only been able to get some of their funding back.

“Every single person we have talked to has felt like they were being pressed into moving into long-term care,” Phillips said Friday afternoon.

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“People who choose to live in their own homes should not see care reductions,” Phillips said.

Ryan Gerstenbuhler, a Lethbridge West resident and quadriplegic, is one of those people.

The funding pays for a health-care worker to assist him at his apartment and he’s currently appealing cuts to that support.

“If they reduce my funding, if they take it away, then that result for me — and for just about everybody else who doesn’t have friends or family who can assist you — is institutionalization,” Gerstenbuhler said.

READ MORE: Alberta government eyeing ‘significant changes’ to health care system in 2020

He said he would prefer to live in the comfort of his own home where he has his own schedule and routine.

He also feels the questions being asked as part of this year’s review are “undignified” due to their invasive nature.

“Ask yourself this: how would you feel if someone came into your home and very politely asked you to account, down to the minute or the second, how long it takes you to go to the bathroom,” Gerstenbuhler said.

He says it’s just one example of the questions on a form that self-managed care patients were asked to fill out recently, focusing on daily living tasks.

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He adds the forms also indicate how long it should take individuals to perform these tasks under self-managed care.

When Global News reached out to Alberta Health Services, the director of communication for the South Zone provided the following statement in regards to the new process change and funding cuts:

“We understand that a change of process can cause concerns for clients. This questionnaire was adopted over the last year in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS) as self-managed care processes were updated. It is meant to enhance the annual review for self-managed care clients and provide consistency throughout the province. The form gives a snapshot of an individual’s requirements from their own perspective to ensure they are properly identified in the needs assessment.

“We know that Albertans want to live in their own homes and be independent for as long as possible. Our goal is to help people be as healthy, well and independent as they can be in their homes and communities while ensuring they are receiving the right care in the right place, and can lead meaningful lives.”

Self-managed care:

“Self-managed care is a type of funding model available to eligible home-care clients that allows individuals to choose and hire who they would like to provide their personal care, home support service or respite support,” explained Gwen Wirth, communications director from AHS South Zone.

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“Under self-managed care, clients receive funding to hire and pay their own caregivers to meet their home-care needs.

“The self-managed care program is particularly suited to individuals who have heavy or unique needs who wish to, and are able, to remain safely supported at home with flexible customized care. Self-managed care is not for everyone since clients must be able to manage their own care and pay their own caregivers.

“Home Care, including self-managed care, is intended to supplement the client care provided by family, community or other supports, based on the client’s unmet needs. Like all home care clients, the amount of personal care and support services funding provided through self-managed care is based on an individual’s assessed unmet need.

“If a client is unhappy with their assessment for any reason, they can contact their case manager who will escalate their concern to the zone home care manager. If the client still feels there is no resolution, they can request a review panel in the zone look at their case. As a very last resort, the client can request a review of their case by the provincial appeal board.”

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