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Continuing care review garners mixed reviews

“I think they have listened and heard the messages, so I fully support the main messages of this review..." said Sam Smalldon
MVT stock Sam Smalldon
Sam Smalldon, chief administrative officer of Mountain View Seniors' Housing. File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS - A facility-based review of continuing care in the province has led to a number of recommendations the government says will improve safety and sustainability. Critics say implementing of the recommendations will not do enough to address pressing concerns.

Mountain View Seniors' Housing (MVSH) operates seniors lodges in Olds, Sundre, Didsbury and Carstairs. Sam Smalldon is the organization’s chief administrative officer.

“I think they have listened and heard the messages, so I fully support the main messages of this review which is to make the changes that they recommend at a minimum,” said Smalldon.

“There are certainly lots of changes that could be made, but these are very good steps that could be made. I believe it is in the right direction.”

The review gathered input from experts, residents in continuing care facility, families of those residents, staff and operators, and others. A report on the review was released last week.

Recommendations coming out of the review include providing direction to support couples and companions to remain living together in continuing care facilities, if they chose.

It also recommends enhancing public reporting on continuing care inspections, phasing out shared rooms in continuing care facilities, including an immediate halt on admissions to rooms where there are already two residents, updating design guidelines to include learnings from the pandemic, and expanding community care and services options to enable more people to stay at home.

“They are going to take time to develop implementation plans and I am very much looking forward to the details,” he said. “The recommendations really confirm the directions that we have been going in.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the review represents a “concrete plan” for improvements to the overall system of continuing care.

“It will help us make continuing care better and safer, including applying lessons learned from the pandemic and the losses suffered by too many families,” said Shandro. 

The government plans to develop an action plan for implementation based on the report’s findings over the coming months, he said.

NDP Seniors and Housing critic Lori Sigurdson says the review and report “will do almost nothing to improve the lives of Albertans in these facilities” and does not address critical and growing needs.

“The recommendations in this report are totally disconnected from the UCP’s budget for continuing care, which increases at least one per cent over the next two years, which is a real-world cut when considering inflation and population growth,” said Sigurdson.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents 50,000 health-care workers, also says the report fails to address shortcomings in the continuing care system.

“Heavy workloads, insufficient staffing, and over-reliance on part-time positions are very real problems in the continuing care industry,” said AUPE vice-president Mike Dempsey.

Dan Singleton

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