Editorial – More than just money needed

Jeff Burgar

Money, money, money. That’s all it takes to make the world sit right.

Following in the footsteps of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his mostly welcomed wheelbarrows of cash is popular. Our own Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is pushing $170 million taxpayer to private nursing home and long-term care operators. The idea is to help them weather the storm caused by the Wuhan COVID-19 virus.

According to provincial news releases, the idea is to support extra cleaning, hire more caregivers, and ease pressure on existing staff.

We have no idea how many such care facilities are privately owned. We also have no idea how many people work in such homes. We have no idea what the profit margins are, for indeed, many of these facilities are run for profit. Many of these homes actually compete with government [read taxpayer] owned facilities.

Is one better than the other? Is a private facility worse than a government owned facility?

Any walk-through any medical or care facility in Alberta, or for that matter in Canada, will reveal the same thing – there are many, many foreign workers on the payroll. Of these, some are Canadian citizens. Some are permanent residents. Some are temporary foreign workers. They are working there for the same reason so many businesses in Canada, from restaurants to garages to janitor services, hire them. They usually work cheaper and often, work harder. Even more important, they are more reliable.

The food service industry in particular is notorious for having some of the most unreliable staff in Canada. Do you want folks not showing up for work at a nursing home or hospital on their whim of the day?

Heart River Housing runs senior homes in a region that spans east of Grande Prairie to Fox Creek, Kinuso, and north of Falher to Northern Sunrise County. Their money comes from levies on local taxpayers right across that entire region. The board of directors is elected councillors from the same region. The worst times for Heart River in the past have happened when the provincial government downloaded clients of its own nursing home facilities to the seniors’ homes.

Yet, at the same time over the past almost 20 years, there has been a steady move away from local people and local governments running our hospitals and care facilities. All in favour of centralized management and of course, the AHS Superboard.

But before we start yelling to bring back the local regional health boards, walk through what we might be asking for. Political cronies appointed to boards as before. Population centres like Edmonton and Calgary swinging more votes and influence. That means bigger facilities, better equipment and more workers, than proportionately Peace River or Valleyview or even Grande Prairie.

But at least, we might have a better say in what the heck is going on in our local hospitals. Throwing money at the wind is really a band aid to serious issues in northern Alberta. No matter how much money it is.

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