Calgary

Eviction of seniors draws fire at for-profit care

The eviction of 30 seniors from their assisted-living homes in northwest Calgary is drawing more fire from critics who say it shows that private, for-profit businesses can't be relied on for publicly funded health-care services.

The eviction of 30 seniors from their assisted-living homes in northwest Calgary is drawing more fire from critics who say it shows that private, for-profit businesses can't be relied on for publicly funded health-care services.

The privately owned Colonel Belcher residence in northwest Calgary is evicting 30 seniors because it's in the company's 'best interest.' (CBC)

It emerged Tuesday that Chartwell Seniors Housing, which owns the 175-person Colonel Belcher seniors residence, will not be renewing its contract  to provide the accommodations, food and housekeeping for residents of the complex's assisted-living units.

The Mississauga, Ont.-based company had leased the space to publicly run Carewest, which operates 10 residential living facilities in Calgary, but opted not to extend the arrangement because "it wasn't in our best interest," senior vice-president of operations Donna Marasco said.

Tom Noseworthy, a physician and co-director of the Calgary Institute for Population and Public Health, said no one should be surprised that a private company wants to make a profit.

"Frankly, this is Chartwell making a business decision to move them out and replace them with more profitable individuals," he said. "So is that bad? Well, you know, that's business."

I have had experience with private-public partnerships. You get what you want now; you pay the price later

When a public entity such as a government health-care body enters into a contract with a profit-making enterprise in what's called a public-private partnership, or P3, patient care may eventually take a back seat, Noseworthy said.

"I have had experience with private-public partnerships. They have their value, they have their down sides. You get what you want now; you pay the price later."

Wendy Armstrong, a past president of the Consumers' Association of Canada's Alberta chapter who has studied care for seniors, said for-profit companies don't do well providing not-for-profit services in the sector.

"Their main focus is really not on providing safe and affordable housing for seniors, and attended-care services should they require them," Armstrong said.

The situation at the Colonel Belcher complex suggests the province may need to reevaluate using P3s to provide care for seniors, she said.

'Calgary needs more beds'

Chartwell and Alberta Health Services have pledged to find the residents, who are in their 80s and 90s, new spaces in other assisted-living facilities, which provide support and care but not at the level of a full-fledged nursing home.

But such spaces are in short supply.

"Calgary needs more beds and needs them now. That is a challenge, but we are bringing on more capacity this fall," said Pam Brown, who's in charge of seniors health in Calgary for AHS.

"It's not easy, but we know what we're doing. We're looking and placing people every day based on care needs. We know what to do and we're doing it."

A provincial union leader said the bigger challenge is that as more baby-boomers retire and eventually move into care facilities, the increased demand will drive up the price of privately operated residences — which is why the Alberta government needs to spend more money on publicly owned and operated sites.

"When the motive becomes one of profit as opposed to providing quality of services, that's a real concern," said Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

With files from The Canadian Press

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