Private long term care should be part of the mix

Doug Graham I was surprised to see the ad in the local papers criticizing recent comments I had made around continuing care, but I was more concerned with the distortion of the facts as presented in the ad's headline: "Privatization of long-term care."

by Doug Graham

I was surprised to see the ad in the local papers criticizing recent comments I had made around continuing care, but I was more concerned with the distortion of the facts as presented in the ad’s headline: “Privatization of long-term care.”

Someone once said that fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed. The ad, as presented by the unions, would have Yukon residents believe that I am rushing to get government out of the business of providing long-term care. Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact, this government has already increased funding for home care because we believe the best place for seniors to live is in their own homes.

I will also continue to advocate for additional funding for seniors’ property tax and utility grants in order for them to be able to afford utility (fuel, electricity, water and sewer) and municipal property tax increases, which in many cases are far higher than their pension increases. We are also undertaking a review to determine how many additional long-term care beds will be required over the next five, 10 or 20 years in order that we are prepared as the boomer generation ages.

In the spirit of transparency, I began a dialogue on the cost of long-term health care in the territory some time ago, involving as many people and organizations in the discussion as possible. I spoke to the Yukon Council on Aging and the Golden Age Society to let them know my intentions, and I have made no secret of my plan to review long-term care fees in all of my public statements or interviews.

Currently, residents in our long-term care facilities pay between $18 and $21 per day, while the cost of providing these spaces ranges from $320 to $400 per day.

I have invited a representative of both opposition parties to discuss the issue with me in the fall, and further discussions on this topic will be held with other interested people and organizations in late fall.

At no time during any of these discussions did I make any mention of privatization of long-term care or any other “health care service,” as stated in the ad.

The number of seniors in the territory is on the upswing and the cost of providing care for this expanding population will continue to increase. Our tax base is not great and it is absolutely essential that we begin the discussion now in order to work toward a solution – before the issue becomes critical.

These discussions will continue this fall and could include the possibility of private care. The discussion about a private entrepreneur opening a long-term care facility in the territory is one I believe is long overdue. My government would welcome the opportunity to have this dialogue – not to replace our current facilities, but to complement our existing accommodations.

Seniors and others should have as many options for supported and supportive long-term care as possible. We also believe a combination of government, non-profit and private long-term care facilities is in the best interests of all Yukoners.

I’m not sure why the unions believe that the only option for long-term care should be that of government-funded and -operated care.

In this territory, we have a long history of non-government organizations, service clubs and private operators involved in the care of our disabled and seniors. Do the authors of the advertisements believe that these operations “create more problems and worse care?” I don’t believe that to be the case, and I will continue to work with non-profits and any other entity who wants to provide good quality, affordable long-term care for our seniors and persons with disabilities.

Criticism is fine, constructive criticism is better, and an intelligent discussion of options leading to a resolution is better yet; the advertisement does none of this. It was, in my opinion, mean-spirited, untrue, and has only served to create anxiety and confusion in our most vulnerable populations and our employees currently working in long-term care facilities.

I have every confidence in our employees to continue to provide excellent care to residents and will advise them that there has never been any intention to transfer these facilities to private operations.

I will continue to work to ensure that our long-term care system is sustainable and remains affordable and accessible to all Yukoners. I want to do this in discussion with Yukoners.

It is unfortunate that the union leadership would jeopardize the co-operation required for these kinds of discussions – which need to take place in a spirit of openness, not a darkroom of fear.

Next time: pick up the phone.

Doug Graham is Yukon’s minister of Health and Social Services

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