Beyond Acute Care


Ottawa should fund long-term care as part of national health program, UNA president says

Canada’s premiers need to tell the federal government it must come back to the negotiating table with a national health plan that includes public funding for long-term care, home care, palliative care and pharmacare, United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith told a news conference today.

During the news conference on a provincial continuing care “concept paper” that emphasizes private seniors’ care services, Smith observed that the Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax later this month would be an ideal opportunity for the premiers to press Ottawa to show national leadership on improving the scope of our national public health care system.

“It’s not just a matter of money, it’s about accountability and vision,” Smith said.

The premiers are expected during their July 25-27 meeting to discuss the Harper Government’s “non-negotiable” national health care funding levels of 6 per cent a year for each year until 2016. Thereafter, the Harper Government says, the health transfer payments will move toward a formula based on economic growth.

Today’s news conference was called by Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors Task Force to reveal to the public the Alberta government’s draft concept paper called “Moving Continuing Care Centres Forward,” which officials have shared with private-sector nursing home operators but not with seniors’ groups or worker representatives like UNA.

The government of Premier Alison Redford has been using the paper as part of a consultation process that only involves facility owners and operators, and invited stakeholders. Smith said the government’s lack of consultation with all stakeholder groups encourages the fear among those left out that “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Submissions to the consultation questions had to be submitted to the government by last Friday – July 13.

Smith read from UNA’s uninvited submission to Alberta Health – which answered from nurses’ perspective the questions posed to nursing home operators by the government. “UNA urges Alberta Health to rethink the consultative process and include all stakeholders, and to not develop proposals based on a preconceived bias toward a larger private sector, for-profit role in this essential part of the overall health care system,” she read.

Noel Somerville, Chair of the PIA Seniors Task Force, called the concept paper “not a seniors’ care proposal, but rather a business proposal. He complained that the proposal continues plans first made public when Ron Liepert was Alberta health minister to offload the government’s seniors’ care costs onto the families of Albertans who require long-term care and enrich facility operators and insurance providers in the process.

Carol Wodak of Continuing Care Watch and the Seniors Action and Liaison Team told media at the conference “seniors need to be the primary ‘stakeholders’ instead of an incidental afterthought in their public policy discussion and decision-making. We need an end to closed-door decision making by those who have vested economic interests in the decisions.”

PIA Executive Director Bill Moore-Kilgannon accused the Redford Government of “deliberately ignoring the downloading of costs on to seniors and their families, and the lack of qualified staff in many facilities.”

PIA has asked Albertans to send stories of their families’ experiences with seniors’ care as well as their proposed solutions to fix the system. The stories will be used to advocate for quality public seniors’ care and will not be shared without the permissions of their authors.

Send your stories to:

Here is UNA’s submission to the government:

UNA submits initial position to Alberta Health on continuing care concept

United Nurses of Alberta has submitted the following answers in response to a three-question “concept feedback” form sent by Alberta Health to some stakeholders in the continuing care centre.

UNA and other stakeholders representing health care workers were not invited to contribute to this process at this stage, and it is not known whether the government intends to consult health care workers on its proposals.

However, UNA believed it was important to make our concerns known when we became aware of this government “Concept Paper,” called “Moving Continuing Care Centres Forward.” A link to a PDF copy of the Alberta Health draft paper is provided below.

UNA expects the government to include medical professionals’ representatives and health care workers’ representatives in this process and to seriously consider their vision and perspective, in developing Alberta’s continuing-care strategy.

QUESTION 1: What level of support do you feel for the concept of Continuing Care Centres, including the vision, principles, key elements and goals as presented in the Moving Continuing Care Centres Forward concept paper?

United Nurses of Alberta strongly supports the general concept of integrated Continuing Care Centres as outlined in these sections of the concept paper. As Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses we are advocates of “an integrated and seamless approach to the provision of continuing care services.” For example, UNA supports the goals of the Canadian Nurses’ Association’s National Expert Commission on nursing that all Canadians would benefit from an approach to health and wellness that includes “merging health and social service workers in multi-disciplinary teams, working in consultation with the citizens they serve,” and further that governments need to develop policies that integrate the health needs of citizens into all proposed policies, laws and programs. In this regard, UNA is in tune with the general concept outlined in the Alberta Health concept paper.

That said, UNA is strongly opposed to increasing the role of private-sector operators in an activity that is a fundamental part of the health care system. Alberta’s continuing care system needs to be operated by the public sector, and staffed by properly trained public employees, with the efficiencies and lower costs the public sector is known to deliver. We are concerned by the presence in this document of words and phrases often used to suggest an increased role for the private sector. If the Alberta Government is serious about continuing care being “affordable to taxpayers” or “informed by evidence and input,” we are confident it will move toward a larger role for the public sector in continuing care.

QUESTION 2: What do you feel are the benefits of developing and implementing Continuing Care Centres?

UNA believes that a holistic approach to both health and wellness at all levels of government and through all sectors of the population is the mechanism by which Canadians and Albertans can achieve affordable and effective health care for all. As nurses, we believe we should work with other professionals to prevent, treat, care for and manage chronic disease. Nurses in particular are ideally placed to be partners with Albertans in their communities to promote healthy lifestyles, self-sufficiency and rewarding aging. So UNA strongly supports the idea of developing and implementing Continuing Care Centres – with the important proviso that to achieve their stated goals these centers need to be publicly managed as part of a broader health policy encompassing the entire population.

QUESTION 3: What if any challenges or barriers do you see to developing and implementing Continuing Care Centres?

UNA is concerned that the continuing emphasis within the Alberta government on the profit motive and the supposed efficiencies of the market sector, as well as the high costs both to the system overall and to individual citizens accessing its services, could pose serious impediments to the development of a truly effective, efficient and fair continuing care system. Further, we are gravely concerned by the process as we understand it to be underway, in which all stakeholders are not being consulted. UNA urges Alberta Health to rethink the consultative process and include all stakeholders, and to not develop proposals based on a preconceived bias toward a larger private sector, for-profit role in this essential part of the overall health care system.

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Study confirms public health is best option

A new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy confirms that universal public health insurance is the best option for long-term care in Canada.


Thank you to everyone who attended and helped make the Beyond Acute Care conference a success. In total, more than 500 people attended the keynote address by Ralph Nader on February 24 and participated in the conference on February 25.

Listen to the audio of Ralph Nader’s keynote speech

This website will remain an active online location where you can find information about care for seniors and the disabled in Alberta.

The resource material provided to conference participants is also available on this website for your information.

Listen to the conference speakers and panelists:

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Assessing Trends in the Delivery of Care in Alberta. Panelists include Wendy Armstrong, Ryan Geake, Executive Director, Calgary Scope Society, and David Eggen, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare.

Probing the Pitfalls of Privatization – Around the World in 80 minutes. Panelists include Margaret McGregor, University of British Columbia, Toby Edelman, Senior Policy Attorney, Centre for Medicare Advocacy, Washington DC, and Eleanor Smith, President of Unison – UK.

Big Ideas that make sense. Panelists include Tamara Daly, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health – School of Health Policy & Management, York University, Marcy Cohen, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Diana Gibson, Researcher, Parkland Institute.

Pushing Back – Moving Forward: Expanding the Medicare Umbrella. Panelists include Noel Somerville, Chairperson PIA, Seniors Task Force, Michael McBane, Executive Director, Canadian Health Coalition, and Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation Labour.

Beyond Acute Care: Covering Seniors and the Disabled with the Medicare Umbrella, was sponsored by several organizations determined to protect, enhance and extend Canada’s and Alberta’s fair and efficient system of public administered, publicly funded and publicly operated system of Medicare.

Organizations supporting this conference include:


Alberta Federation of Labour Seniors United Now
United Nurses of Alberta Public Interest Alberta Alberta Council on Aging
Alberta College of Social Workers CUPE Alberta Health Sciences Association of Alberta
Alberta Retired Teachers Association United Steel Workers Health Care Workers Council of Canadians
Friends of Medicare Parkland Institute