Review of Alberta continuing care homes suggests 42 recommendations

A lengthy, 217 page long review of continuing care home facilities in Alberta found dozens of areas in need of improvement and it also says demand for care will jump by 62 per cent in the province by 2030.

The report, which came after a review of Alberta facilities and included interviews with more than 90 facility operators, workers, residents and family members, ends with 42 recommendations.

"The recommendations will improve the equality of life for residents and families. In fact, it puts quality of life right at the centre, the front of the recommendations," said Tyler Shandro, Alberta's minister of health.

Some of the changes will happen in the next month. The province plans to phase out 'ward rooms' with more than two people by July 1.

Site-specific inspections and audits on facilities and operators will be released publicly by July as well.

The province will take the summer to work on an implementation plan for many of the other recommendations.

The report also called for increased hours of 'direct care' from nurses, aides and physical therapists.

Wage increases, better benefits and mental health support is also recommended for workers at the facilities. Shandro said it would look at those measures to determine the level of funding, if any, it will provide for those recommendations.

CRITICS PUSH FOR CHANGES TO MAKE IT HARDER TO SUE OPERATORS OVER COVID-19 DEATHS

The review started before the pandemic, though authors of the report note COVID-19 made some of the issues more clear.

While the government pledges to strengthen continuing care, critics say proposed legislation fails to hold operators accountable.

If passed, Bill 70 would make it so health care providers and facility operators cannot be held liable for damages due to COVID-19 if public health measures were followed.

The proposed legislation would be retroactive to the start of the pandemic in Alberta.

"The blanket level of protection in this Bill creates a threshold that is effectively impossible to meet and it will halt lawsuits already in progress," said Lori Sigurdson, the NDP's seniors and housing critic.

The opposition party says it plans to table an amendment to remove the Bill's retroactive measure to allow lawsuits that have already been filed to proceed.

Kathy Kaiser's mother died of COVID-19 after contracting the virus in a Calgary continuing care facility. She is part of a class action lawsuit against the facility's operator.

"This isn't just about my mom dying. This is about the behaviours which caused my mom's deterioration and death and they should be held accountable," Kaiser said Monday.

First reading of Bill 70 was introduced in April.