Joe Byrne questions handling of long-term care charges

   “The goal here was to achieve parity … It’s got to be fair for a senior in a private home or a public home.”  That’s how Health Minister Robert Mitchell explained why the rate charged in provincially run long-term care facilities had to be increased by about 30%.  Joe Byrne thinks it’s ironic that the Government should try to paint the hike as a matter of fairness.  “There are two things wrong with that picture,” says the Leader of Island New Democrats.

   First, Joe Byrne points out, the jacking-up of charges hits a segment of the population who are most vulnerable to change: the frail elderly, mostly women, who are characteristically dependent on a fixed income.  “And how fair,” he asks, “is the Minister’s back-track decision to give current residents a two-year phase-in, but immediately subject new care-needing residents to the much higher rate?”

   The other problem, says the NDP Leader, is the split of responsibility in the provincial health system.  He notes clear conflict between the Government and Health PEI, the supposedly independent body it set up to manage the delivery of services.  “Health PEI announces the rate increase … then the Minister, presumably realizing how damaging this is in the context of an impending election, calls it ‘an oversight’.  He rescinds the agency’s decision and scrambles for a compromise.”  Health PEI has said that they had been asking Government for years to authorize increases.  “What happened to good-sense planning?” Joe Byrne asks.  “Instead, we get a knee-jerk jump of 25 or 30% because of failing to adjust realistically to costs.”

   The NDP Leader points to a statement by Health PEI that the rate hike is justifiable as “a move toward improving the fairness in how long-term care residents are treated.”  “No, says Joe Byrne, “What we’re seeing is hardly a matter of fairness.”