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Albertans banned from visiting loved ones in long-term care take concerns to Legislature

EDMONTON, AB (May 7, 2014): Family members of long-term care patients who have been banned from visiting their loved ones in care are at the Legislature today to have their voices heard and press for answers from the PC government.

Many Albertans have expressed frustration at arbitrary decisions of lodges and hospitals to ban family members from visiting their loved ones in care after raising legitimate concerns over the quality of care. Health Minister Fred Horne must intervene to ensure family members have free and easy access to their loved ones in long-term care, Wildrose Seniors Critic Kerry Towle said.

“There simply has not been due process in these cases,” Towle said. “In fact it appears as if there is no process at all, and that family members are being punitively singled out and banned for raising legitimate care concerns.”

The government has tried to deflect criticism by deferring complaints to the new health advocate, but the advocate is deprived of enforcement capacity and is not an independent authority but rather an employee of the Health ministry, Towle said.

“It’s time the Minister took the denial of access to family members seriously and intervened to find out why these problems continue,” she said.

Both Huguette Hebert and Shauna McHarg were banned from a Covenant Health facility. Hebert says she was banned because she objected to being asked to leave while her husband was being changed. McHarg hasn’t seen her father for two years and has restricted visiting time with her mother.

“I definitely felt abused when my husband was alive.  When one person makes a decision, it cascades down the chain of command and taints other decisions.  These arbitrary decisions are often made in an instant but can last and last,” Huguette said.

“I have been through a lengthy four-year appeals process and I have gotten nowhere.  The Ombudsman tells me this ruling is unfair, but has no power.  What’ the point of having an Ombudsman if the Ombudsman has no teeth or authority to correct these abuses of power?” McHarg said. “The bottom line is that I will not be able to see my Mom on Mother’s Day and it’s breaking her heart.  My Dad who lives in the same facility is equally devastated.”