Some Alberta continuing care residents still not getting two baths per week

EDMONTON – More than a year and a half after the province announced new rules for continuing care residents to receive at least two baths a week, facilities across Alberta are still falling short.

The Progressive Conservative government announced the two-bath-per-week policy in March 2013 after months of outcry over inadequate bathing standards. The policy replaced a previous standard that left bathing standards up to each resident’s individual care plan.

According to the most recent audit findings from Alberta Health Services, 89 per cent of long-term care facilities and 86 per cent of supportive living sites are compliant, while roughly one-third of all home care providers are adhering to the two-bath rule.

The new policy defines baths to include tub baths, showers, sponge baths or bed baths.

A spokesman for Alberta Health Services said 204 facilities of the 636 sites across the province were audited from April to September 2014, representing roughly 32 per cent of all continuing care operations.

The issue was raised by opposition MLAs Tuesday during an all-party public accounts committee meeting with representatives of Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Seniors.

After the meeting, Health Minister Stephen Mandel said he expects 100 per cent of continuing-care residents will be given at least two baths a week by the end of the year, but during question period he was more equivocal.

“Two baths a week is an option, if appropriate. We have to look at what is appropriate for the care. The only rule is: whatever is appropriate based on the care plan,� Mandel said in the legislature.

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth accused the government of breaking its promise to some of the province’s most vulnerable.

“This is about dignity. Your government is failing to enforce the standards that you yourself have set for the most vulnerable people in our province. A year and a half ago, we were told that seniors could access two baths per week immediately,� Forsyth said.

The long delay in implementing the two-bath-per-week rule reveals a credibility gap for the governing Tories on the health file, said Liberal health critic David Swann.

“There’s a lack of monitoring, there’s a lack of enforcement, there’s a lack of real diligence in oversight and accountability in this government and I think that’s part of why we’re dealing with such skepticism and cynicism and demoralization in our health workforce,� Swann said.

An October report from auditor general Merwan Saher found that officials who oversee the province’s $910-million long-term care system don’t ensure residents receive the services outlined in their care plans and don’t monitor to ensure staff are scheduled to provide the proper level of care.

AHS officials told the public accounts committee Tuesday that the health authority is working to improve that oversight.

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