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Auditor General's report won't lead to improvements in care in Alberta

Apr 22, 2008 12:51 PM
 

The 2008 Report of Auditor General is an important follow-up on the critical issues for seniors care and programs in Alberta. But the upbeat media reporting misses some serious concerns raised in the report and fails to fully address the continuing crisis for families depending on continuing care facilities and staff members.

"The Report does not address the fact that private employers are playing a shell game in order to boost their eligibility for funding," said Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta Division President D'Arcy Lanovaz. "They are re-designating their buildings and re-evaluating their residents, in order to access funding designated for assisted living facilities."

"While this allows them to access more government money," Lanovaz explained. "This comes at a great cost to the residents. Staffing levels decrease while the amount of residents remains the same."

In CUPE's 2006 study 'The Crisis in Senior's Care - A Front Line View', it was revealed that nearly 90 per cent of CUPE staff members working in long term care facilities reported that it was difficult to find time to provide one-on-one attention to residents. Nearly three-quarters said they'd been left short of time for essential care needs, like bathing time.

"CUPE members working in services for Alberta seniors have much to offer to this planning session," continued Lanovaz. "We will pursue every opportunity to share their experiences in order to secure high quality service and good work environments in residential and care facilities for Alberta seniors."

CUPE represents over 3,400 members working in long-term care facilities in Alberta.

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For more information contact:
D'Arcy Lanovaz
President, CUPE Alberta
403.861.5235

Audra Williams
Communications Representative, CUPE
780.504.2837


BACKGROUNDER:
The 2008 Report of Auditor General is an important follow-up on the critical issues for seniors care and programs in Alberta. But the upbeat media reporting[1] misses some serious concerns raised in the Report and every day - in facilities for seniors across the province. In addition, the limitations of the scope of this reporting and review process fail to fully address the continuing crisis for families and seniors depending on residential and continuing care services. The Auditor General Report states that:

Long-term bed numbers have not risen as dramatically as supportive living facilities. We have been told that this is a result of increased emphasis toward supportive living arrangements (Pg.102).

In fact, according to the Auditor General Report, the number of continuing care beds in all Regional Health Authorities except Calgary, Edmonton and Ft. McMurray have decreased between 2005 and 2007 (Pg 101).

What is not in the Auditor General Report is that in the fight for provincial funding, senior's facilities providing long term care services have re-designated all or part of their facilities, and re-evaluated their residents (reducing the service levels) in order to access designated assisted living funding status. In this way a facility is able to access a different provincial funding envelope - but with the consequence that staffing levels decrease, even though the same people, with the same or increasing needs remain dependent on what care is available to them.

While long term care beds have been reduced in many health regions, hospitals across the province have patients waiting for spaces in long term care, stuck in acute care beds. Meanwhile, the shortage of acute care beds makes it impossible to move patients out of hospital emergency wards, contributing to the ongoing problem of long wait times for hospital emergency services.

The report of the Auditor General also includes information and assessment of training initiatives for staff. What the report doesn't state is that staff shortages have made it difficult, if not impossible, for staff to schedule and access training opportunities. Day after day, shift after shift, CUPE members arrive at work only to learn that they will be "working short" - without enough staff to keep up with priority work, and definitely no time available for training.


The problems created for staff in continuing care facilities were documented by responses from almost 600 CUPE members working in care and residential services for seniors in our report - The Crisis in Seniors' Care - a front line view (Oct. 2006)

www.cupealberta.ab.ca/03news/releases/20061023.htm

The findings of this report include:

- In long term care and continuing care facilities, a large majority of respondents identified problems finding time to provide "one-on-one" attention to residents (88%), or enough time to meet resident care needs (e.g. bathing time) (74%).

- In lodges and residential facilities, more than three-quarters of respondents identified problems related to the increased care needs, complex health problems and mobility requirements of residents. Residents and families are frustrated by housing that does not meet health and mobility needs, and that there are long waiting lists but no available spaces in long term care facilities that are appropriate to meet their care and support requirements.


Recent membership surveys confirm that staffing levels, workload and stress continue to be urgent priorities. In responses from 363 CUPE members at 9 different facilities for seniors - 81 % to 84% of respondents identify staffing levels, workload and stress as high priorities.


According to the Report of the Auditor General the Department of Seniors and Community Supports (SCS)

"has been given a mandate priority to bring forward an updated plan to expand long-term care and improve standards of care"

...and further

"SCS is staging a planning session with private sector housing operators, world class experts, other stakeholders and Health to brainstorm new ideas for the continuing care system, and possible directions that the system can be taken in to meet the future needs of Albertans". (pg 146)

CUPE members working in services for Alberta seniors have much to offer to this planning session and we will pursue every opportunity to share those experiences in order to secure high quality service and good work environments in residential and care facilities for Alberta seniors.



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[1] "...Fred Dunn found noticeable improvements in seniors' care..." Calgary Herald, April 17, 2008 Pg. A4.