More than a thousand workers at five continuing care facilities in Southern Alberta are demanding Alberta Health Services (AHS) ensures public funds support residents rather than profiting a company worth $3.6 billion.
The 1,100 staff members who work at AgeCare facilities in Calgary, Strathmore and Brooks, wrote an open letter to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health expressing a need for clear direction on how continuing care corporations spend public money.
“Jason Kenney has given millions of Alberta dollars to support continuing care and it’s up to AHS to ensure that money is spent to ensure the wellbeing of the workers and residents rather than the profit margins of the owners,” says Bobby-Joe Borodey, Vice President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents the workers. “The workers are very concerned that new funds made available by the Alberta government will not make it to the front lines. And they’ve repeatedly asked, in vain, for AgeCare to make improvements to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
AgeCare Health Services Inc. was founded by Dr. Hasmukh Patel and Dr. Kabir Jivraj and in January 2020 sold 80 percent of its stake in five of its Calgary continuing care facilities including Skypointe, Walden Heights, Sagewood and Sunrise Gardens to Axium Infrastructure, a Montreal-based portfolio investment firm. Axium Infrastructure’s portfolio, which includes stakes in power plants, infrastructure projects (including part Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Ring Road) and continuing care facilities, has an estimated worth of $3.6 billion.
The workers behind the letter work at AgeCare Skypointe, Walden Heights and Glenmore in Calgary, AgeCare Sagewood in Strathmore and AgeCare Sunrise Gardens in Brooks. They include LPNs, Health Care Aides, maintenance workers, housekeeping, foodservice and other workers in Auxiliary Nursing and General Support Services. In the past several months, these five AgeCare facilities suffered continued and repeated COVID-19 outbreaks that have resulted in 283 workers contracting the disease and the death of 88 residents.
“These outbreaks at AgeCare facilities have taken a tremendous toll on these frontline workers and the residents they serve,” says Borodey. “Due to insufficient isolation support from AgeCare, many of these healthcare heroes have seen their entire households infected with COVID with some family members getting gravely ill and one death.”
In the letter, the workers requested any public funds supporting the continuing care industry be tied to increased staffing levels, increased sick days, retroactive essential services pay to compensate for the risk of working on the pandemic frontlines, and for operators to provide confidential, long term psychological health and safety supports.
“Though many of these workers and residents are happy to have been vaccinated, there are still systemic issues that need immediate attention,” Borodey adds. “We are now facing a new phase of this public health crisis - mental and physical trauma and burnout among front line workers.”
AUPE Vice-President Bobby-Joe Borodey is available for comment. For more information, contact Wayne Arthurson, Communications Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org.