Concerns raised over long-term care

Concerns have arisen around changes to seniors care in Grande Prairie with the relocation of residents from the QEII's Mackenzie Place to the new Points West Living complex in the city's west end.

By December, 116 long-term care residents will be transferred from Mackenzie Place to the privately-owned Points West Living facility, as well as the new Grande Prairie Care Centre, set to open at the end of this year.

Since opening in May to serve seniors as well as mental health, dementia and palliative care patients, Points West has taken in 51 residents from Mackenzie Place.

Paula Anderson is a Grande Prairie resident and vice-president of the provincial lobbying group, Friends of Medicare. She said a close friend's husband suffers from dementia, and is among the Mackenzie Place residents who have already been moved.

Anderson spoke of her concerns to media at a Friends of Medicare appearance at the QEII Thursday.

"With patients in this situation, moving them is an upheaval in their lives, and we know that a lot of the people who have been transferred and moved from one facility to another don't do well – it can shorten life expectancy," she said.

"What I'm hearing is that there's a lot of minimum wage people being hired over at Points West. What kind of training do they bring to it compared to trained nursing staff that are very well versed in dementia patients and long-term care patients?"

"We're seeing a disturbing trend across the province of moving patients out of public long-term care facilities and into private centres," added Friends of Medicare director David Eggen of Edmonton.

"In the midst of doing that, we fear that we are losing economic efficiency for our health care."

Mary Dahr works as a technologist in the QEII's microbiology lab, and has seen concern among the Mackenzie Place staff over the transition.

"They're not only concerned for their livelihood, but they're concerned for the patients there," she said. "The families of the patients at Mackenzie Place were told that 90% of the caregivers from Mackenzie Place would be at the new facility, and that in fact is not happening."

But the province's health provider states that the move is an improvement to seniors care in Grande Prairie.

"Alberta Health Services are working to increase choices for seniors and others across the province," said Deb Guerette of AHS communications in Grande Prairie, adding that Points West Living has already taken in 32 local seniors who were previously without long-term care.

"In Grande Prairie, when the two new facilities open, there will be 91 new spaces for supportive living and continuing care residents that we have not had before. It also creates a much more modern and homelike environment for residents."

Guerette admits that Mackenzie Place staff will lose their jobs with the transition, but said that the new facilities will offer opportunity for them.

"Staff have the option of seeking a new position within AHS, or with working with one of the facility partners," she said.

"We have hired qualified staff from Grande Prairie, including staff from Mackenzie Place, and continue to look for more staff including from Mackenzie Place," said Doug Mills, manager of company that runs Points West, Connecting Care. "They are at similar wages and their seniority was recognized."

Friends of Medicare members expressed concern Thursday that the privately-run Points West Living will not uphold the same standards as the hospital's long-term care centre, but Alberta Health is assuring the public that services will not degenerate and that the fees Mackenzie Place resident's families pay will not increase.

"The private partners operate under the same standards and have for some 50 years in Alberta," Guerette said. "Whether the provider is public or voluntary or private they're all required to comply with the same standards."

Alberta Daily Herald Tribune, Sat Jun 10 2011
Byline: Eric Plummer