RMWB Council heard a presentation on the status of the region’s seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luana Bussieres, Executive Director with the St. Aidan’s Society presented the report.
The report follows a statement issued by the Mayor and Councillors addressing concerns about an Alberta Health Services (AHS) relocation plan.
The plan called for AHS to transport seniors or alternate level of care patients from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre (NLRHC) to long-term care facilities in the North Zone.
AHS said relocating the seniors to a safer, less-risk centre would reduce the risk of COVID-19, and free up acute beds for any future COVID-19 patients in the region.
Bussieres said there was a lot of debate and mixed information from the bureaucracy.
“When it came to the decision to relocate some of the older adults into other facilities, there was initially little if any patient and family involvement, and in some situations physician involvement.”
She added that in one case the physician learned from their senior patient about their impending move.
Bussieres mentioned another case where a senior’s family member received information on Saturday, April 4.
AHS planned to relocate the senior to another facility on Monday, April 6 at 8:00 a.m. via a Diversified bus.
She said it was a small school bus that drove the senior to the new facility.
This revelation angered Councillor Verna Murphy.
“To put our seniors on [a] school bus with no bathroom is just disgusting. Somebody should be called out for that; that’s just absolutely disgraceful.”
Bussieres mentioned numerous examples of frontline healthcare staff and physicians at the hospital travelling with seniors to ensure the safety and well-being during the relocations.
There was a previous suggestion that the relocations would not come with an increase in costs.
Bussieres said that suggestion was “patently false.”
“The increase in the fee between the new facility and our hospital is a minimum of $342.55 per 31 days. Plus, the new facility also had a $10 fee a month for the dresser, $75 a month for laundry, as well as other costs.”
Bussieres also mentioned the senior would need to pay a $2000 deposit fee, which they later waived.
Each hospital or continuing care facility has individualized costs for programs and services.
She added relocation of the most vulnerable also has serious health and well-being consequences.
Bussieres said morbidity rates are so significant that the NLHRC organized a quality review team.
One of its current tasks is to look at reducing risks for moving patients to Willow Square, which is expected to be done constructor by May.
“Whether you’re moving seniors across the street or across the country, the relocation and subsequent impact on them is well researched and well documented.”
She contended the decision-makers in the AHS bureaucracy lost the “Patient First” strategy.
After some deliberation and RMWB involvement, Bussieres said things started to improve.
“When [our frontline staff and physicians at the NLRHC] finally got the information and clarity from above, they delivered the information with care, concern, and compassion. They are not the ones making these decisions, and they are in no way the focus of our stated concerns.”
Bussieres also thanked the Mayor and Council, and the region’s social profits, and volunteers for maintaining that strategy.
Their support and care for the elderly and most vulnerable in our region aided during the COVID-19 response.
She maintained the Society still has concerns about the social isolation of some elders in the region.
“I’ve always considered our seniors our responsibility.” Said Mayor Don Scott.
CAO Jamie Doyle said he and the Director of Emergency Management Scott Davis would meet with AHS to discuss a COVID-19 strategy for seniors.
RMWB Council expects a report at a later date.