Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Auditor Finds Improvement in Long-Term Care, Says More Can Be Done

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Auditor Finds Improvement in Long-Term Care, Says More Can Be Done

Article excerpt

Alberta can do better on seniors care: auditor

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EDMONTON - Alberta's auditor general says the province is dropping the ball when it comes to monitoring and figuring out who is in charge when it comes to long-term seniors care.

Merwan Saher, in a report released Tuesday, says the province has improved following a scathing report in 2005. It has adopted a better funding and care model in the last decade, which now requires every long-term resident to have an individual care plan.

"(But) what is missing is a crucial weakness," Saher said at a media availability.

"Alberta Health Services has insufficient assurance that long-term care facilities are appropriately and consistently allocating those publicly funded staff hours to each shift to deliver daily care that fulfils each resident's care plan."

He suggested three key changes: "Unannounced (inspections), removing existing duplication (of work and) less examination of documents at facilities that set out policies and more examination of the care actually being delivered."

Alberta's $910-million a year long-term care system has 14,000 beds at 170 facilities. Saher said it has effectively become short-term care for seniors who are too frail or ill to be looked after in the community.

In 2005, the auditor general found rampant problems, including some seniors being drugged to keep them compliant, medication directions being ignored and patients being roused in the middle of the night to meet staffing schedules.

Saher said his staff toured facilities and didn't find any residents at risk. But those visits were done with Alberta Health Services officials and were announced two months in advance, he noted.

He suggested the system still needs a lot of work on fundamental organizational questions.

Six years after Alberta collapsed all health regions into the provincewide Alberta Health Services superboard, the government and AHS still haven't sorted out who is in charge of what, he said.

Alberta Health Services delivers front-line care, while Health Minister Stephen Mandel and his department set policy and oversee the entire system.

"The Department of Health needs to clearly define and separate its monitoring role and responsibilities from those of AHS, and improve public reporting on the results achieved for the funds provided," wrote Saher in the report. …

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