Issued with Thursday, February 20, 2014 New Release Government document questions legality of private health care clinic
Officials raise “serious concerns” that Copeman Clinic is breaking the law
Edmonton – Senior government staff question the legality of the Copeman Clinic, a private health care clinic, according to an internal government document obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour.
In a report drafted in January 2013, government officials flagged numerous practices at the clinic that could put it in contravention of the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act.
“Many Albertans have been concerned that the Copeman Clinic operates outside of the law,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Turns out, Alberta Health officials shared these concerns.”
The ‘Advice to the Minster’ document, obtained through Alberta’s Freedom of Information system, was drafted after Copeman’s Executive Director Rick Tiedemann’s commented in the media about user fees and the number of patients Copeman’s physicians see.
“Albertans rejected two-tiered health care during Ralph Klein’s ill-fated ‘Third Way’ boondoggle, but the Redford Government is ignoring public opinion, ignoring the advice of their own officials, and turning a blind eye to this clinic’s unCanadian practices,” McGowan said. “They’re allowing the creation of U.S.-inspired private, for-profit health care in Alberta.”
The government document states that the statement made by Copeman’s Tiedemann on user fees “raises serious concerns that the Copeman Healthcare Centre may be in contravention of the AHCIA [Alberta Health Care Insurance Act] since membership fees may be considered extra billing.”
Copeman’s physicians see fewer patients than a typical practitioner in the public system. The government document notes that Copeman may be violating the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act “by voluntarily limiting their practice to only individuals who can pay the membership fees.” Typical family doctors see 2,000 to 3,000 patients. Those working at the Copeman Clinic see no more than 450.
“This puts a strain on the rest of Alberta’s healthcare system. It makes it more difficult for everyday Albertans to find a family doctor, and it means longer wait times,” McGowan said. “It means that medical care is not prioritized to the people who need it most.”
The document advises the minister that there should be a more thorough investigation into the practices at the clinic. However, in the time since the report was written, the government has not taken action, and there have been no changes to the operation of the Copeman Clinic.
“The Copeman Clinic is still behaving in the same way that government officials flagged as potentially illegal,” McGowan said. “Albertans deserve a thorough investigation of private health care clinics.”
MEDIA CONTACT:Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
In Harper’s warped world, postal workers are too essential to strike, not essential enough to deliver the mail
Edmonton – The elimination of door-to-door mail delivery is the latest example of the Harper government’s attempt to undermine essential services Canadians rely on, Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour said.
McGowan’s comments came in response to the news that Canada Post will eliminate all of door-to-door regular mail service in the country over the next five years.
“All Canadians will feel the pain from these proposed changes, not just the 8,000 workers who will lose their jobs across Canada or the 1,000 here in Alberta. Seniors or people living with disabilities will be particularly hard hit,” McGowan said.
“The irony of today’s announcement is that the Harper government says that postal workers are too essential to strike, but not essential enough to actually deliver the mail.”
McGowan adds the impact will be particularly acute for smaller cities and towns that rely on postal service as a pillar of the local economy in addition to the economic impact of the loss of local employment provided by Canada Post.
“The Canada Post Corporation has already cut thousands of jobs across the country by closing post offices and eliminating rural mail delivery,” McGowan said. “What’s really frustrating is that these cuts would have been unnecessary if the Harper government allowed the Canada Post Corporation to innovate with new services, like expanding into postal banking, which has been a huge success in Germany.”
“All this has been done with the blessing of the Harper government which is deliberately undermined the postal service in order to simply create a market for full-blown privatization.”
“The Canada Post Corporation announced these sweeping changes with the blessing of the Harper government, but there’s hope. The continuing chipping away at public services and the rights of workers that deliver them increases the odds that there won’t be a Harper government after the next election.”
Members of the AFL’s Executive Council, who represent most unions in Alberta, have committed to supporting the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) in their fight to protect services for Canadians and jobs for their members.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com
Fort McMurray local faces job losses due to government mismanagement
Edmonton – More than 50 postal workers in Fort McMurray walked off the job this morning to protest contracting out delivery of parcels.
Representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 736, which represents more than 100 workers, say the striking workers are trying to bring attention to how the government has undermined services at the post office. The strike was precipitated by an announcement that parcels would be delivered by outside contractors, a decision that could lead to nine workers losing their jobs.
"This isn't a cost-cutting measure. It's a failure by the local management to retain quality staff," Local 736 president Dana Gabriel said. "The public needs to know what Canada Post is doing to services. We feel bad for the public – they aren't getting the service they should."
The post office in Fort McMurray has seen higher turnover because of a botched route restructuring that has many employees working 10-hour days. A starting wage of $19 has made it difficult to retain new staff in the high-wage, boom economy of Fort McMurray. Additionally, because they're employed by a federal organization, workers for the post office do not get the Northern Allowance that other Fort McMurray residents receive.
"It's never an easy decision to walk out. This is something our membership takes very seriously," Gabriel said, noting that his membership had previously engaged in a two-day wildcat strike in 2007. "People on the picket line are worried – we've already been threatened with five-day suspensions, management was out here reading workers the riot act. It's their fault, but they're making it our problem."
According to the Alberta Federation of Labour, the decision to outsource parcel delivery is symptomatic of a government that puts ideology before practicality.
"Contracting out parcel delivery doesn't make sense," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "It's going to cost the Post Office more, service is going to deteriorate, diligent and responsible postal workers are going to lose their jobs, and it won't solve any of the problems with delivery. This is just bad all around."
For more information please contact CUPW Local 736 President Dana Gabriel at 780-713-8969
Or Alberta Federation of Labour Communications Director Olav Rokne at 780-289-6528 (cell)
Alberta's union movement is standing up for public transit
Edmonton – Hundreds of concerned Albertans and union members will rally today at noon at city hall in protest of privatization of the South East extension of the LRT, and demand accountability from City Council for the decision.
The decision, made by council earlier this year to privatize the operation and maintenance of the new line running from Millwoods into the downtown, was met with grave concern by supporters of public transit.
“This decision is not something Edmontonians will let slide. If city councillors think we haven’t noticed that they’ve opened the doors for further privatization of our public transit system, they’re wrong. And we’re here today to make sure they listen” said Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour which represents 160,000 workers across the province.
A recent Environics poll revealed 64 per cent of people surveyed disagree that turning over operations of the southeast LRT to a private corporation is the correct decision. With municipal election campaigns gearing up in just a few weeks workers of Alberta have decided to come together and with one voice send a strong message against P3s.
The rally will be held in front of city hall starting at noon on Friday, April 26, 2013.
Speakers will include:
Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour
Marle Roberts and Mike Scott from CUPE
Stu Litwinowich from ATU 569
Deron Bilous from the Alberta NDP
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDMONTON - NDP Leader Brian Mason said Wednesday his party would regulate power rates if they win the provincial election.
Seated at the dining room table at a retired couple's house on the south side of Edmonton, Mason said the NDP's plan to reform the province's electricity system would provide more reliable and affordable electricity.
"I promise you that relief is in sight," Mason said as the election campaign rolled into its third day. "With regulation, power companies could not unilaterally raise their rates because they want to make more money. They would need to justify increases. Unless you have a regulated power market, rates are open to manipulation."
As part of its energy plan, Mason also said the NDP would give Alberta's Utilities Commission a mandate to protect consumers; remove cabinet power to approve utility projects and open them up for consideration at public meetings; require power corporations to pay for transmission lines and make infrastructure projects subject to regulatory approval; and would encourage wind and solar generation to cut the need for expensive power lines.
Conservative Leader Alison Redford has promised the Tories would review the electricity system after the election. Alberta is the only province with a fully deregulated energy system, which Mason said hurts consumers.
Seated at a table with Edmonton-Goldbar candidate Marlin Schmidt and Angus and Carolee Perry, Mason said unpredictable electricity rates make it hard for people to budget.
"We want to make sure that life is affordable," Mason said. "In a province with so much prosperity, a lot of people are left behind."
A retired rural school principal, Angus Perry complained that in recent months the amount that he has paid per hour of usage has fluctuated wildly, and that the percentage of savings he apportions for electricity has more than doubled in the 10 years since the province endorsed deregulation.
"Ten years ago we were putting money away for our grandchildren's post-secondary education," 74-year-old Perry said, photos of his beaming brood of seven grandkids a few feet away. "Now we can't put funds aside because the cost of electricity takes such a big bite out of our budget.
"We are paying more, even though we have done everything we can do to reduce consumption. To me, it is an essential service and its cost is totally out of control and nobody is answerable."
Mason, who met with voters later Wednesday at a bake shop on the northwest side, acknowledged that the New Democrats have a smaller war chest than the Conservatives and Wildrose, who are running neck and neck in a new poll.
"It is quite clear they have a lot of money in the bank and a lot more to spend than we do,'' Mason said. "Our approach is a more patient, door-knocking approach that we think will pay dividends in the long run."
The cost of electricity is one of the issues voters are raising when the NDP comes knocking.
"I think we are putting on enough pressure that the Progressive Conservatives are nervous about the issue," Mason told the Perrys. "I am confident that if we do well enough in the election, we will get things done."
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Mar 29 2012
Byline: Marty Klinkenberg
Alberta farm families are being strangled by skyrocketing electricity costs that stick them with monthly bills of $1,000 or more, cabinet ministers heard at a meeting of rural municipalities Tuesday morning.
Reeves and county councillors from across the province erupted in applause when veteran Grande Prairie farmer Richard Harpe pressed Energy Minister Ted Morton to explain how the government will fix the problem of growing electricity costs.
"The average small farm in rural Alberta - a small cowcalf operator or a small grain farmer - is paying anywhere from $750 to $1,000 per month for electricity, said Harpe, a county councillor who has been farming 2,428 hectares of grain for 40 years. "Before the government deregulated electricity, they were paying $300 every three months, or $100 a month.
"The government promised us cheaper power when they deregulated. They said we'll create competition and you'll get cheaper power."
Morton said he is in the process of appointing an independent panel to review variable and regulated rate options and consider what, if anything, the government can do to reduce volatile costs attached to the variable default rate.
In the meantime, he said rates are expected to return to normal in coming months, bringing power bills down to a level consistent with what people paid last year.
"Rates are back down to eight cents on the regulated rate option, we've frozen the ancillary charges, we're reviewing the regulatory rate option," Morton said.
Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 21 2012
Byline: Karen Kleiss
As shocking as it is an ambulance crew was used by a for-profit Edmonton nursing home to evict an 80-year-old grandmother afflicted with dementia and dump her at a public hospital Emergency Room without telling her family, six months ago this story would have caused barely a ripple in our complacent and inattentive mainstream media.
Yet despite the fact the story was brought to attention yesterday morning by the Alberta Federation of Labour and Public Interest Alberta -- just the kind of progressive voices our homegrown media loves to ignore -- TV and print journalists were out in force to cover the appalling situation.
The reason, it's said here, is not altruism or even the kind of outrageous facts that traditionally make for a great news story. It's because the media smells Tory blood in the water.
With a long-plotted provincial election looming, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford are suddenly lurching from crisis to crisis. The public and media have started to take note things aren't exactly going the government's way.
And the appalling treatment of Grace Denyer, kicked out of the inaptly named Tranquility Care Home in south Edmonton after the private, for-profit, and apparently unregulated operator tried and failed to jack up the rent paid by her family, and dumped dazed and confused at the public Grey Nuns Hospital ER, is certain to focus more public attention on the Redford Tories' plans to privatize and deregulate seniors' care in this province.
In other words, this is yet another crisis for Redford's government -- which is nowadays reeling like a palooka, looking almost as befuddled as the one led by her predecessor Ed Stelmach.
Yesterday morning, you could feel the excitement of the media even before Denyer's daughter went to the microphone to recount the horrifying details of what happened to her mom, who last year also suffered a stroke and has only limited ability to speak, can't walk or feed herself and must wear a pacemaker.
The facts on their own are appalling, and well covered in the media: after growing dissatisfied at the quality of care in a public auxiliary hospital in the bedroom suburb of St. Albert, Denyer's family moved her to the private facility that advertised itself as being capable of taking long-term care patients.
They thought they could get a better quality of care, Beth Podgurny of St. Albert told the reporters, and indeed Denver was in stable condition and showed signs of improvement after the move. But despite signing a contract, within days Podgurny was told by the operator of the Tranquility facility that the $3,495-per-month price the family had negotiated for her mother's care was too low, and was going to have to jump to $4,995. (For only $500 more, the family was told, the company could house Denver in the basement.)
Podgurny and her husband Jackie thought they were involved in a resolvable dispute over the rent they'd agreed to pay the private operator for Beth's mom's care. The company apparently saw it as a simple business matter to be handled decisively, and "responded with an eviction notice to take effect in only a matter of days."
The eviction took the form of calling an Alberta Health Services ambulance crew and instructing them to haul Denver off to the public hospital, which they did. Podgurny and her sister didn't know anything about it until, shocked and frightened, they received phone calls from medical staff at the Grey Nuns.
"We are appalled that our 80-year-old mother was treated liked a commodity instead of being treated with the respect and dignity that all Albertans deserve," Podgurny told the news conference. "The fact that there appears to be nothing under provincial rules to prevent this is mind-boggling. It just goes to show that the privatization solution that Premier Alison Redford is pushing to address long-term-care issues isn't the answer for vulnerable Albertans.
"My family wants answers from the Conservative government," Podgurny stated. "Why was it possible for our mother and our family to be treated in this appalling fashion? Why is this facility allowed to advertise for and accept long-term-care patients when it is not licensed to do? How can they increase the rent in excess of 42 per cent within weeks of entering the home? How can they be allowed to evict and dump a resident at the Emergency door when they decide they no longer want to provide care?"
These are all great questions, and if they get answers, it will only be because the family has made this a public issue on the eve of a general election.
Earlier, Health Minister Fred Horne and Seniors Minister George VanderBurg didn't even bother responding to a letter outlining the family's concerns about their mother's treatment in St. Albert.
The reality, however, is that Albertans should get used to this sort of thing if the rampant privatization and commercialization of long-term care pushed hard by the Conservative governments of Ralph Klein, Stelmach and now Redford, and advocated by the far-right Wildrose Party as well, are allowed to continue apace.
As Public Interest Alberta Executive-Director Bill Moore-Kilgannon told yesterday's news conference, private long-term care operators have an ugly history of trying to "cherry-pick" low-cost, easy-to-care-for seniors for long-term care and dump the more complex and expensive cases on the public system.
"Unfortunately, this is not the only case we have heard of private facilities forcing seniors out when they feel they are too costly to support," he said. "We are calling on all political parties to commit to build a high-quality public care system for the growing population of seniors with chronic health-care needs -- and to stop the profiteering off our most vulnerable seniors."
Well, good luck with that with a government deeply committed to letting the private sector take over the public job of providing long-term care for vulnerable seniors, the better to provide families with "choice" -- you know, the choice of paying more or having their loved ones abandoned at a busy urban Emergency Ward.
Indeed, here in Alberta, taxpayers' dollars are being funnelled by the millions into subsidizing private, for-profit care of just the type experienced by Denver and her family.
At the very least, Podgurny said, "the government has to step up to the plate and they have to put the accountability back into the system. And they have to do it immediately."
"I said I would never let that happen to my mother before she was in long-term care," Podgurny told reporters, brushing aside a tear. "And it happened right before my eyes and there was nothing we could do about it!"
Now that it's become another election issue, it'll be interesting to see what Redford, Horne, VanderBurg and other members of the government have to say about the shocking treatment meted out to Grace Denver.
The nursing home operator, whom reporters complained they were having trouble contacting, has apparently left the country, Moore-Kilgannon told reporters.
Alberta Diary, Thurs Mar 15 2012
Statements from press conference, 10:00 a.m., March 14, 2012
Family of evicted long-term-care patient attacks plans for more privatization
Long-term care in Alberta is in crisis and the privatization solution being pushed by the Conservative government will only make the situation worse, says an Alberta family whose mother was evicted last week from a private care facility.
Grace Denyer is an 80-year-old who suffers from dementia, had a stroke in August 2011, has a pacemaker and is unable to walk and feed herself and has only limited speech ability (click here for backgrounder).
"Within days of moving into the Tranquility Care Home Inc. in South Edmonton, the for-profit facility started to ask for more money. They wanted to increase the monthly rent from $3,495 to $4,995, despite the fact we had signed a one-year contract for the lesser amount and they assured us they could care for my mother. When we instructed the home that we wanted to stick to the terms of the contract, they responded with an eviction notice, to take effect in only a matter of days," says her daughter Beth Podgurny of St. Albert.
"My mother was assessed as being in stable condition and designated as a long-term-care patient, but on the same day the assessment was made, the private-for-profit home where she was living decided it no longer wanted her and so dropped her off at a hospital emergency department without notifying us," says Podgurny.
"What has happened to our mother should not happen to anyone. It is clear proof that the profit motive and patients make are a poor mix."
Podgurny says she and her family have been concerned about Conservative government talk of raising the cap on accommodation fees for long-term care to encourage more private, corporatized care.
"Today, my family wants answers from the Conservative government. Why was it possible for our mother and our family to be treated in this appalling fashion? Why is this facility allowed to advertise for and accept long-term-care patients when it is not licensed to do so? How can they increase the rent in excess of 42 per cent within weeks of entering the home? How can they be allowed to evict and dump a resident at the emergency door when they decide they no longer want to provide care?"
The family also wants to know why they have not had the courtesy of a response from an earlier letter they sent to Health and Wellness Minister Fred Horne and Seniors Minister George VanderBurg seeking a public inquiry into long-term care.
"We wrote to the Ministers two months ago asking for a public inquiry and expressing concerns over the treatment of our mother at the Youville Home in St. Albert. We have heard nothing since," says Podgurny.
"Because of the treatment our mother endured at Youville, we were cautious about trusting the care she would receive in a private, for-profit home. Based on their assurances, we removed our mother from Youville and placed her in private care, even though we knew the fees would be a source of constant stress for the family. Little did we know that the situation was going to get far, far worse."
Noel Somerville, Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta's Seniors Task Force, says: "The Premier has told us that she supports expanding the role of corporations in providing care to seniors. As we see from this shocking story, the province needs to protect our most vulnerable seniors by stopping these types of private facilities who decide they no longer want the bother of caring for your mother, your sister, your father – and simply drop your loved one off at hospital and leave them to clog up the acute-care system."
"Unfortunately, this is not the only case we have heard of private facilities forcing seniors out who they feel are too costly to support," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. "On the eve of a provincial election, we are calling on all political parties to commit to build a high-quality public-care system for the growing population of seniors with chronic health-care needs – and to stop the profiteering off our most vulnerable seniors."
MEDIA CONTACT: Bill Moore-Kilgannon, 780-993-3736
NOTE: The Alberta Federation of Labour got to know the family of Grace Denyer while working on the recent Beyond Acute Care Conference in Edmonton. When approached by the family, the AFL agreed to help organize the media conference to bring this important issue to the attention of Albertans.
- Parkland Institute, "Delivery Matters," February 23, 2012
- YouTube video, "Fighting for Her Mother's Long-term Care in Alberta"
Supportive living complexes may be unsafe, officials say
Over a quarter of residents in Alberta's supported living facilities may be unsafe because there is insufficient staffing and care for their complex medical needs, according to a recent study.
And the report - co-written by epidemiologists at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta - found seniors in these facilities were more than twice as likely to be rushed to an emergency ward or end up staying overnight in a hospital compared with nursing home patients who have round-the-clock nursing care.
"We have put some people in supported living when we should have known their condition could quickly deteriorate and there was a lack of medical oversight," author Colleen Maxwell said. "We do worry whether people with diabetes, heart conditions and dementia are slipping through the cracks."
Maxwell, a former U of C researcher who is now a professor at the University of Waterloo's school of public health, said she was surprised to find that over half the residents in sup-ported living facilities were medically unstable and nearly 60 per cent had been diagnosed with dementia.
But the facilities were much less likely to have the medical expertise to handle these conditions than nursing homes. Only 34 per cent had doctors who were formally affiliated with the facility. Less than half had a licensed practical nurse on duty at all times.
"Everybody wants a more home-like environment and likes the idea of aging in place," Maxwell said, "but as with the experience in the United States, there are questions about whether a supported living facility can respond to prevent ad-verse events."
The survey of over 2,000 residents - half in supported living facilities and half in nursing homes - showed marked differences in how residents accessed medical care and what it cost the system.
In the previous 90 days, patients in a long-term care setting were 50 per cent more likely to have seen a doctor, but they were less than half as likely to have been hospitalized or to have visited an ER.
"Once someone has a hip fracture, they have to go the ER," Maxwell said. "The question is, was everything was done at the facility to prevent that fall."
She said the survey also found residents in supported living paid higher fees, faced additional costs for health-related supplies and services and that family caregivers were expected to bear more of the burden of care.
"There is this off-loading of costs and care on to family members," she said.
"Many told us they enjoyed getting involved, but there is a limit beyond which we can expect caregiver burn-out or the exhaustion of financial resources."
Liberal health critic Dr. David Swann said the findings raise serious questions about the province's continuing care strategy and its focus on adding more supported living beds instead of nursing home spaces.
"If the government wants people to age in place, they need to ensure they are getting adequate medical attention," Swann said.
"When patients end up in ERs and hospitals, it's neither the best care nor is it the most cost-effective for the system."
In the wake of conflicting numbers from the seniors ministry about the number of nursing home beds, Health Minister Fred Horne released figures this week that show Alberta has 50 fewer spaces today than it did four years ago, when the province promised it would add hundreds of new beds to eliminate hospital gridlock and shorten ER waits.
Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said she was troubled by the decline in the number of nursing home beds and the government's difficulty in pinning down an exact number.
Calgary Herald, Tues Mar 13 2012
Byline: Matt McClure