Seniors Week marked by call for reform to prevent further tragedies
EDMONTON – Alberta should mark Seniors’ Week this week by committing to permanent reform of continuing care to prevent more tragedies among elderly Albertans, says the province’s largest union.
“Today, we are asking the Alberta government – both the UCP and the opposition NDP – to commit to fixing the crisis in continuing care,” says Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents about 95,000 workers, including about 58,000 in health care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear that our continuing-care system has been failing for many years. The patchwork of private and public operators has not only exposed our loved ones to this killer virus, it has shown that the care people receive even in good times is inadequate,” says Smith.
AUPE has issued a Seniors’ Week statement that calls for an end to playing politics with seniors’ health care and to transition continuing care into publicly funded and publicly delivered care.
“Our current model of continuing care has made the COVID-19 crisis worse. Staff shortages, low wages and workers forced to take jobs at multiple sites are a direct result of allowing private, often for-profit, operators into the system. There is no better example of that than what’s happening in Vegreville,” he says.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has sought an exemption to the public health order limiting workers to single sites because operators of four facilities there have been unable to recruit enough staff to care for residents.
“Last year, one of these operators laid off more than 50 workers, so it could outsource their jobs at wages rates up to $8 per hour less. The reason given was so the operator could give ‘greater return to our shareholders.’ Profit was more important than patients,” says Smith.
“You can draw a direct line from that corporate greed to today’s inability to hire staff in the community and to the people of Vegreville now being exposed to greater risks,” he says.
“We must get the profit motive out of continuing care. We must break the cycle of corporations donating to political causes and getting access to our seniors so they can make money,” he says.
“For too long, governments led by different parties have allowed privatization and the profit motive to hurt our seniors. This week, as we pay tribute to seniors, we ask Premier Jason Kenney and opposition leader Rachel Notley to commit to ending this dangerous practice.”
AUPE President Guy Smith is available for interviews.
For more information, contact Terry Inigo-Jones, AUPE Communications, at 403-831-4394