Changes to home care have workers and families of clients concerned

EDMONTON – The health minister admits he’s growing “increasingly frustrated” with how Alberta Health Services is handling recent changes to home care and has ordered a review, asking AHS administrator Janet Davidson to get back to him as quickly as possible.

The two current providers are being replaced by one from Ontario; it’s part of a reduction in the number of providers by AHS from 42 to 13 in Edmonton and Calgary.

According to AHS, the list of new providers will be made public once all the providers have been chosen. Nearly a month ago, AHS said that would happen shortly. But it hasn’t yet.

Home care workers and client families from Strathcona County, along with NDP Health Critic David Eggen, assembled at the Alberta Legislature on Wednesday to try and get some answers.

“It’s clear that they’ve taken the province and they’ve carved it up into pieces,” said Eggen. “We’re not getting the dollar amounts, the details of the contracts.”

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Although AHS maintains services won’t be affected or cut, workers and families are hearing something different from patients.

“She was told they were no longer going to make fresh foods for her – she’s going to have to either bring frozen food in, have something warmed up…or she was going to have to go for meals on wheels. She’s a lady who has major, major health issues. And you’re going to make her eat frozen foods? said one worker.

“I had a client crying, stressed,” she added. “Stressed, in the end stages of cancer, and she’s stressing this bad. How is this okay? Is the money worth it?”

Just two weeks ago AHS reversed its decision to change home care providers for three co-ops. This group wants the same to happen in Strathcona County, and delivered letters to the health minister on Wednesday saying just that.

“All of us have to wake up, because we’re all going to be there at some time. We never know what kind of care we’re going to need,” said Donna Wilson, whose 90-year-old mother suffers from dementia and receives home care services at Silverbridge Lodge in Strathcona County.

AHS declined to respond to this story, or the health minister’s remarks.

Financial statements for AHS were just posted and show AHS ran a surplus of about $106 million.

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The reduction in home care providers is estimated to save AHS $18 million.

With files from Vassy Kapelos, Global News

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