Minister of Health and Seniors for Alberta Sarah Hoffman paid a visit to Lloydminster on July 14 to tour some of the facilities and catch up on the unique challenges that face the Border City’s health-care sector. She met with some of the concerned stakeholders, as well as MLAs Richard Starke and Colleen Young, to talk about the continuum of care and what the new government’s policies are regarding long-term facilities.
“I saw amazing staff who really care about their patients and are really inspired to get up in the morning and come give them the best quality of care, I want to say that first and foremost,” said Hoffman, while standing outside the Dr. Cooke Extended Care Centre facility.
“I met with a number of residents when we were walking around too, who are really happy to be living where they are and they’re grateful that they have companionship with the other residents as well as from the staff.”
In the government’s platform, Hoffman said they have plans to build 2,000 beds over the next four years and will be going ahead with building and staffing to meet the needs of the province. People she spoke to in Lloydminster said they want to ensure there are long-term plans to address the needs of residents and that taxpayers’ money is used responsibly.
Starke, MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, says the main issue is going forward with the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed last year between the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“We realize that there have been changes in ministers and government on the Alberta side, but nonetheless the importance of that document and the plans it lays out haven’t changed and it’s really important that we continue to move forward,” he said.
Another important issue that came up in discussion was the status of the grant for the affordable supportive living initiative (ASLI), which has been put on hold since the NDP took office. The Pioneer Lodge applied for the grant late last year so they can put the funds toward the lodge’s expansion.
Hoffman said though there were announcements made about the grant, no contracts were signed so they are going to take the time to make sure business plans and projections align with the needs and values of the province.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s been stopped, I would say that there are conversations happening to make sure that we are properly aligned in meeting the needs of not just seniors, but all Albertans,” she said.
Starke noted that Alberta is a big province with many concerns and needs from a lot of different communities and said he doesn’t anticipate an answer in the immediate future, but is looking forward to some feedback as soon as possible.
He said the expansion for the Pioneer Lodge is ready to go and if they can get the green light, the facility could be ready for residents as early as July 2017.
Colleen Young, Saskatchewan MLA for Lloydminster, says she thinks Hoffman did a good job of listening to the city’s concerns during the visit and hopes the minister will take that message back to the Alberta legislature to help them understand the specific needs of the city that need to be uniquely addressed.
“There are always challenges,” Young said. “Budget cycles are different, terminology around seniors care is different in two provinces and I think that some parts of the bilateral agreement and the MOU need to bring those two ministries together to start working on those kinds of things, which will help Lloydminster in the long run. Getting them both to the table at the same time, I think, is the answer and I’m hopeful that will happen.”