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No mention of vaccine passports: government puts money into home care to take pressure off Alberta's ICUs

Government says up to $36 million in new funding will improve wages and create additional workforce capacity to allow more Albertans to receive care outside of hospitals and free up resources to treat COVID-19 patients during the fourth wave.
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Watchers say the government response to dealing with ICU capacity in Alberta hospitals doesn't cut it. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

In an answer to public outcry about full ICUs and cancelled surgeries across the province, the Alberta government announced today it will pour millions into home care and facility-based care. The announcement didn't address calls for a health passport and doesn't sit well with some observers.

"Albertans expected the government to offer a serious response to the surging fourth wave today. Instead, Minister Shandro announced a band-aid solution and Premier Kenney did not even show up. 

“This ‘update’ was an embarrassing exercise in deflecting attention away from Premier Kenney’s decision to plunge Alberta into COVID chaos and his refusal to take responsibility for doing so,” said Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Vice-President Mike Dempsey. AUPE's over 90,000 members provide public services for Albertans across the province.

“We are drowning in the Delta variant’s fourth wave and Kenney doesn’t even have the courage to address Albertans, and hasn’t for a whole week," he said.

In his announcement, Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said more than 400 Albertans are currently waiting in hospitals to move into continuing care facilties, so improving care in the community will reduce pressure on acute care which is reaching capacity due to COVID-19.

"We know home care agencies are experiencing staffing challenges. Increasing the pool of available staff will mean we can move additional patients from hospitals to their homes when it is safe to do so," said Shandro. "This benefits hospitals as they manage the increasing number of patients who need beds because of COVID-19 complications.”

Contracted home care agencies will receive $22 million over two years in additional funding to provide wage increases to their certified health-care aides. The additional funding will provide a pay increase of $2 an hour for the next 13 months for health-care aides working in home care agencies contracted with AHS. The home care aide salary increase is for staff working in contracted home care agencies and doesn't apply to AHS or Covenant Health home care staff.

An additional $14 million is being provided to expand workforce capacity to support home care and continuing care facilities on a short-term basis until March 31, 2022.  That news is being well received by those at the helm of Alberta's continuing care.

“The Alberta Continuing Care Association welcomes this additional funding to improve Alberta’s continuing care system as a whole," said Salimah Walji-Shivji, chair of the Alberta Continuing Care Association. "Our members provide care and services for over 13,000 individuals in long-term care and designated supportive living settings and over 5.2 million hours of home care to Albertans.”

There are more than 132,000 Albertans who receive home care services annually and nearly 28,000 Albertans residing in continuing care facilities.