Alberta Health Provides Statement on Continuing Care
Recent newspaper articles about Alberta Health Services (AHS) request to Alberta Health to allow staff at continuing care facilities to work in multiple facilities in Vegreville has drawn attention to the current situation.
Steve Buick, Press Secretary for Alberta’s Health Minister, provided some information on the matter this past week.
Buick stated, “Our continuing care operators have done a good job of protecting residents through this unprecedented crisis, with the support of AHS and our government, and effective direction from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, CMOH.
We’ve had 112 deaths in continuing care as of the latest update (May 4) – compared to more than 1,600 in Ontario and 2,700 in Quebec. We’ll expand the review of continuing care legislation to include a review of how the system performed through the pandemic. But our system has done well, including all partners, public, independent, and voluntary.”
Buick said, “Up to eight continuing care facilities out of nearly 400 in the province may be exempted from the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s order that all staff work on a single site, due to staff shortages. As of June 4, Alberta Health and AHS were still working to reduce the number of exemptions that they will ask the Chief MOH to consider; we expect it will be fewer than 8, including the sites in Vegreville.
When asked for the names of the other continuing care facilities that had also made requests, he responded by saying, “We’re not releasing a list because it’s not final yet and because the exemptions are not in place yet. The Chief MOH has said she’ll consider them, subject to extra infection-control measures and close monitoring by AHS, and the details are still being finalized.”
He also touched on the $2 per hour wage top-up, “which applies to contracted continuing care facilities; it does not apply to sites run by AHS directly (CapitalCare and Carewest) or Covenant Health. That’s because AHS received an extra $500 million at the start of the pandemic and it can use those funds to pay extra costs in public facilities. The top-up applies only to Health Care Aides because they’re the core workforce in continuing care and they’re the group being affected most by increased absences and shortages due to illness and/or isolation.”
He pointed out that all continuing care facilities are monitored and inspected by Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services (AHS) to ensure compliance with detailed standards for accommodation and health services.
When any deficiency is found, the operator is required to fix the issue within a prescribed time. Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services work with operators and follow up to make sure action is taken. Alberta Health inspects all facilities annually to ensure they are meeting the Accommodation Standards. This includes assessing building cleanliness and maintenance, water temperature, security, menu requirements and laundry, among other standards. All audits, including non-compliances noted or addressed, are shared publicly through alberta.ca. AHS conducts regular audits of all facilities to ensure compliance with the Continuing Care Health Service Standards.
They may also follow up in response to complaints, and do unannounced audits. In addition, the Protection for Persons in Care program, administered by Alberta Health, independently investigates complaint of deficiencies in care, and can order any changes deemed necessary.
Buick noted that, “Visits to continuing care facilities are strictly limited by order of the Chief MOH due to the very high risk to residents. Visits inside a facility are limited to one essential visitor who is integral to a resident’s care, or at end of life. Outside visits can include an essential visitor and one other person.”
The CMOH Order does not provide specific limits on the visit frequency and length. That’s an operator decision. They are the ones in the best position to determine what is safe for residents and feasible in their facility at any given time. Visitors are encouraged to speak with the site if they have concerns to find ways to address them.