Province spending $36 million to free up hospital space for Covid patients
More funding to increase health-care capacity
Up to $36 million in new funding will improve wages and create additional workforce capacity to allow more Albertans to receive care outside of hospitals and free up resources to treat COVID-19 patients during the fourth wave.
Improving home care and facility-based continuing care will mean more Albertans will get the care they need in their homes and communities. This will help reduce pressure on all parts of the health-care system, namely acute care, during a time when hospitalizations are increasing due to COVID-19.
More than 400 Albertans are currently waiting in hospitals to move into continuing care facilities, with many more waiting to return to their homes outside of facility-based care with the support of home care services.
“We know that home care agencies are experiencing staffing challenges. Increasing the pool of available staff will mean we can move additional patients from hospitals to their homes when it is safe to do so. This is a benefit to patients who would rather get the care they need in the comfort of their own homes. It also benefits hospitals as they manage the increasing number of patients who need beds because of COVID-19 complications.”
“Supporting home care agencies recruit and retain staff will enable more patients to receive high-quality care in their homes, improving capacity in our hospitals and allowing more patients to stay close to their loved ones.”
Wage increases for health-care aides
Contracted home care agencies will receive $22 million over two years in additional funding to provide wage increases to their certified health-care aides. The additional funding will provide a pay increase of $2 an hour for the next 13 months for health-care aides working in home care agencies contracted with Alberta Health Services. The purpose of providing this increase in funding rates is to help retain current and recruit additional staff, which will allow more Albertans to be cared for in their own homes. There are currently hundreds of vacant health-care aide positions in the home care system.
Alberta Health Services is also increasing home care hours authorized for agencies; the funding increase will help the agencies meet these hours. This supports the shift to more care in the community, as recommended in the facility-based continuing care review.
Expanding the home care workforce
An additional $14 million is being provided to expand workforce capacity to support home care and continuing care facilities on a short-term basis until March 31, 2022. There is a need to be able to respond quickly to new health system pressures arising from COVID-19. Similar to the comfort care aide program that provided a staffing pool for continuing care facilities, this additional funding will support a variety of innovative approaches to mobilize existing or new staff to where they are most needed for short periods of time.
“The Alberta Continuing Care Association welcomes this additional funding to improve Alberta’s continuing care system as a whole. Our members provide care and services for over 13,000 individuals in long-term care and designated supportive living settings and over 5.2 million hours of home care to Albertans.”
“Our caregivers provide exceptional client-focused home support services and go the extra mile to make our clients feel special, comfortable and safe. This additional funding will help to sustain the home care sector and our dedicated staff who deliver high-quality care to Albertans every day.”
“We thank the Alberta government for their recognition and support of the ever-important work our home care health-care aides provide to keep our clients safe and well in their homes. This announcement is a positive step forward to developing a sustainable funding model to make home care a desirable career choice.”
- A Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) study found that a growing number of seniors in Canada could have been supported in their homes through home care, helping to delay or avoid admission to continuing care residences.
- There are more than 132,000 Albertans who receive home care services annually and nearly 28,000 Albertans residing in continuing care facilities.
- The $22 million for the health-care aide wage increase will be provided over two years; $12 million in 2021-22 and $10 million in 2022-23.
- The home care aide salary increase is for staff working in contracted home care agencies. This increase does not apply to Alberta Health Services or Covenant Health home care staff.
Canada under pressure to produce more food, protect agricultural land: report
Canada’s agricultural land is under increasing pressure to produce more food as demand grows domestically and internationally, while the industry grapples with limited resources and environmental constraints, a new report found.
“We need to grow more food on less land and in a volatile climate,” said Tyler McCann, managing director of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.
The report by the institute released Thursday looks at the pressures on Canada’s agricultural land to produce more food while also mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, said McCann.
Despite Canada being a big country, it doesn’t have as much agricultural land as people might think, said McCann, with the report noting that agricultural land makes up only around seven per cent of the country.
Because of that, we can’t take what we do have for granted, he said. “We need to be really thoughtful about how we are using our agricultural land.”
In 2020, Canada was the eighth largest country in terms of cropland area, the report said, with that cropland decreasing by seven per cent over the previous two decades.
Canada is a major producer and net exporter of agriculture and agri-food products, the report said, exporting $91 billion in products in 2022, and one of the top 10 exporters of wheat, canola, pulses, pork and beef.
In the coming years, Canada will face increased demand from countries whose populations are growing, the report said.
“With population growth on one side and climate change on the other, Canada will be amongst an increasingly smaller number of countries that is a net exporter,” said McCann, noting that Canada’s own population is growing, and farmland also needs to be protected against urban sprawl.
The wildfires clouding Canadian skies this week are a “vivid reminder” of the pressure that extreme weather and the changing climate are putting on the agricultural sector, said McCann.
“We need to clearly mitigate … agriculture’s impact on climate change. But we also need to make sure agriculture is adapting to climate change’s impacts,” he said.
One of the ways the world has responded to demand for increased agricultural production over time is to create more agricultural land, in some cases by cutting down forests, said McCann. But that’s not a viable option for Canada, which doesn’t have a lot of land that can be sustainably converted into farmland — and even if it could, doing so could have a variety of adverse environmental effects, he said.
Some of the practices used to reduce emissions and sequester carbon in agriculture can also improve production output on existing farmland, the report found, such as precision agriculture and no-till practices.
However, intensifying the production of current agricultural land also comes with potential environmental downsides, the report said.
For example, McCann said fertilizer is an important part of sustainable agriculture, but there’s a balance to be struck because excessive use of fertilizer can quickly turn food production unsustainable.
“We need to be a lot more thoughtful about the inputs that we’re using,” he said, adding the same can be said about the use of technology in agriculture and the policies and programs put in place to encourage sustainable intensification of Canadian agriculture.
The report recommends that Canada adopt policies that provide financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers and develop regulatory frameworks promoting sustainable land use, as well as promoting education and awareness campaigns, so that the country can “ensure the long-term sustainability of its agricultural sector while protecting the environment.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.
Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press
Lawyer tells Alberta’s highest court review board biased in de Grood’s case
A family member of five slain students holds a heart sign with their names on it following a court decision in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Alberta’s highest court is being asked to overturn a review board decision on the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party that confined a man to a supervised Edmonton group home. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Ritika Dubey in Edmonton
Alberta’s highest court is being asked to overturn a review board decision that confined a man to a supervised Edmonton group home after the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party.
The lawyer representing Matthew de Grood argued Wednesday the review board’s decision was biased, citing what she described as political interference from Alberta’s former justice minister.
“The appellant says, ‘I think the conclusion about me is wrong. The board’s conclusion is incorrect and not supported by evidence,”’ Jacqueline Petrie said before the Alberta Court of Appeal. “He says there’s no significant evidence that he’s a risk.”
De Grood, 31, was found not criminally responsible in 2016 for the killings two years earlier of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong because he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time. Petrie said de Grood has been stable on medication, is at low risk to reoffend and should be allowed to live with his parents while being monitored under a full warrant.
She argued the review board misunderstood medical evidence during the September 2022 review, which deemed de Grood a significant risk despite the assessment showing improvements. She said the board is supposed to recommend the least onerous disposition compatible with public safety and did not do that for de Grood.
The defence lawyer has said the review had been influenced by former justice minister Doug Schweitzer, who weighed in on de Grood’s case in October 2019 after the panel allowed de Grood to transition from institutional care to a supervised group home.
He has been under supervision at a group home. His case is reviewed by the Alberta Review Board yearly to see whether he can transition back into the community while maintaining public safety.
Petrie pointed at de Grood’s “exemplary record,” and that he has been “compliant to the (medical) treatment team.”
“Nobody knew he had schizophrenia (at the time of the stabbings) and needed medication.”
Crown prosecutor Matthew Griener said the board considered a conditional discharge but dismissed it, citing a relapse in schizophrenia symptoms in 2021.
Griener said de Grood’s relapses were brief and happened at the hospital, providing an early window for medical professionals to intervene.
Justice Kevin Feehan said de Grood may be low-risk, but the consequences of even one relapse could be significant.
Reading from an expert’s report, Feehan said: “A low risk to offend doesn’t mean the reoffence would not be severe.”
Some family members of the victims drove from Calgary for the hearing.
Segura’s mother, Patty, said the last nine years have been about de Grood and his rights.
“He should be thankful that he ended up NCR (not criminally responsible) rather than end(ing) with five life sentences for murdering five people,” she said. “He should not be appealing.”
Hunter’s father, Barclay, opposed a potential full release.
“The idea that he wouldn’t be monitored for the rest of his life seems to defy logic, it doesn’t make any sense,” said the father.
Hunter’s mother, Kelly, said the family has had “no healing.”
“We do this every year, at least once. Now, this is the second appeal,” she said. Barclay
Hunter said although there are attempts to reintegrate de Grood into society, he hopes the man is not left on his own with an absolute discharge.
“Regardless of what they say, he killed five people. If that doesn’t stand on its own as a risk factor, then I don’t know what does.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2023.
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