The 5 Year Action Plan – Part 2
OK, pop quiz. What’s the difference between “long term care” and “supportive living” (also known as “assisted living”)? You don’t know do you. Neither did I until I read a letter (Jan 15/11) to the Calgary Herald written by Mr Harrigan, Director of Labour Relations for the United Nurses of Alberta. Mr Harrigan points out that contrary to what the Government would have you believe these two terms are not interchangeable. “Long term care” refers to care in a nursing home or auxiliary hospital. It requires on-site nursing care by RNs and LPNs (licensed practical nurses). “Supportive living” also requires on-site care, however it is generally provided by trained aides, not regulated RNs or LPNs. The critical distinction here is that patients living in long term care facilities require significant daily nursing care because they are not as healthy as patients in supportive living facilities. Pretty straight forward, wouldn’t you say.
Remember this distinction when you read the PC’s 5 Year Action Plan. For some reason the Health Minister insists on lumping the two terms “long term care” and “supportive living” under the rubric “continuing care”. Take a look at the glowing press release describing the 5 Year Action Plan which promises to deliver “more spaces for continuing care (68% increase in the number of people moved out of a hospital bed and into a community care setting)”. This is a reference to an additional 2300 continuing care “spaces” (not beds), which it turns out, are the backbone of two of the 5 strategies in the Action Plan: the strategy to reduce ER wait times and the strategy to provide seniors with more choice in continuing care. I’ll admit that the addition of 2300 continuing care “spaces” likely will provide seniors with more choice in continuing care, however it will do absolutely nothing to reduce ER wait times. Why? Because patients who require long term care are simply not healthy enough to leave the hospital and move into “community care spaces” which in this context appears to be “assisted living” or “supportive living”. Pushing frail patients out of acute care beds in order to make room for ER patients waiting in the aisles on the first floor will simply result in these very same patients returning to those very same acute care beds, after putting in the required wait time in ER. This is not a wait time reduction strategy, it’s a revolving door strategy.
This leads me to a comment (quite a few actually) made by the Privacy Commissioner, Frank Work. Commissioner Work took the Stelmach government to task for its lack of transparency. He called it “…the difference between a culture of secrecy and a culture of openness”. An eloquent and perhaps a career limiting statement. The Commissioner’s comments were directed primarily at the access to information, however he shared his thoughts on the process of government in general and said: “People who want our votes…espouse accountability and transparency. The first of Premier Stelmach’s five priorities when he ran for election in 2006 was to govern with integrity and transparency”.
Simply put, those who promise transparency should deliver on it. Touting the addition of 2300 “continuing care” spaces (whatever that means) as a mechanism to reduce ER wait times is dishonest and misleading. Surely the people of Alberta deserve better.