AHS to reverse controversial home care decisions

Alberta Health Services will reverse their earlier decision to replace home-care services in three Edmonton facilities, said AHS president and CEO Chris Eagle today.

100 kilometre long-term transfer policy also reversed

Layoffs canceled for 3 Edmonton facilities and controversial 100 km care policy withdrawn. 1:56

Alberta Health Services will reverse their earlier decision to replace home-care services in three Edmonton facilities, officials said today.

Care providers at Abby Road Housing Co-operative, Artspace Housing Co-operative and Creekside Support Services, who had been slated to be laid off July 31, will keep their jobs.

Management and staffing at all three facilities had been set to pass to private, for-profit contractors as part of the province-wide reduction in homecare companies.

CBC News first broke the story about the AHS decision to cut the number of home-care service providers last month.

The province’s decision was met with concern by both home-care providers and clients, as the change would have resulted in disrupting client-caregiver relationships — many of which had been in place for years or even decades.

In addition to the home care reversal, AHS also announced the controversial ‘first available bed’ policy allowing seniors to be moved to long-term care facilities up to 100 kilometres from their families will also be cancelled, effective immediately.

The decision to reverse the earlier AHS plans comes less than a week after Horne fired the entire AHS board, and named Janet Davidson the new administrator.

AHS to pay more attention to individual needs

"Today we are reversing some recent decisions in palliative, home-care and continuing care placements," announced AHS president and CEO Dr. Chris Eagle in downtown Edmonton.

"We have reversed a decision that effectively cancelled homecare contracts with three Edmonton-based supportive living cooperatives, recognizing the unique and specialized care they provide," he added.

Speaking of the province’s decision, Eagle admitted AHS should have paid more attention to the needs of those Albertans who expressed concerns over the proposed changes to homecare administration.

He said AHS will have to do things differently in the future.

"I think what we’ll do in the future is make sure than when we’re doing these large system changes that we also allow for the voices of families and patients to be heard a little earlier in the process."

Speaking after the announcement, Health Minister Fred Horne said he still supports the province switching to fewer providers overall, but recognizes some exceptions will need to be made for certain specialized care providers.

Health Minister Fred Horne said AHS failed to consider some of the unintended impacts its earlier rulings. (CBC)

"In this case we failed to... consider the impact that was unintended — I’m sure — on people with some very specialized needs."

Reversal met with positive reviews

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith spoke in support of the reversal.

AUPE had been in the processing of negotiating a collective agreement with home-care workers at Artspace when AHS announced that the contract would be cancelled and facility employees would be laid off.

"I think AHS and the government recognized the value in what Artspace created here and saw that preserving this model of home care is the right decision for the residents of Artspace," he said in a release Tuesday.

"The whole process of eliminating residents' ability to choose the care they want by handing that care over to for-profit companies from out of province needs to be reviewed," he added.

The Wildrose Party also spoke out in favour of the decision.  

"The reversal is "a good first step to ensure the quality of care for patients won’t be immediately impacted," said Wildrose Health Critic Heather Forsyth in a release.  

"Ultimately, the decision to centralize home-care providers means less choice and less quality of care for patients who have a very personal relationship with their caregivers.

This should be a message for those throughout the health-care community that if we come together as Albertans we can push the government to reverse decisions that will harm patient care."

"You only get what you fight for, it seems with this government," said NDP MLA David Eggen, speaking after the announcement. "If we would have let this slip then this would have been another loss to public health."