WHEREAS the World Health Organization has declared a global pandemic for COVID-19 on March 11, 2020 and Alberta housing management bodies (HMBs) and continuing care operators (CCOs) have been in pandemic response since that time; and
WHEREAS HMBs and CCOs have been proactive in taking preventative steps and complying with directives and orders from Alberta Health (AH); and
WHEREAS Alberta HMBs and CCOs have incurred unbudgeted costs for labour and supplies and lost revenues to vacancies in order to meet AH compliance requirements; and
WHEREAS the pandemic-related revenue and cost impacts forAlberta HMBs and CCOs are not currently funded by any federal or provincial programs; and
WHEREAS these lost revenues and costs are not recoverable through business interruption insurance; and
WHEREAS at some point, HMBs and CCOs must make up lost revenues and costs to sustain operations; and
WHEREAS in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in a facility, there is a clear current that a single HMB or CCO will not be able to supply full front-line labour requirements;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request the Government of Alberta to provide funding to Alberta housing management bodies (HMBs) and continuing care operators (CCOs) in support of front-line workers for the additional labour, personal protective equipment and operational supplies and lost revenues due to complying with COVID-19 pandemic directives and orders; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA request the Government of Alberta to immediately provide a plan for emergency supply of labour, personal protective equipment and operational supplies to Alberta HMBs and CCOs in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at a facility in Alberta.
At this time, Mountain View Seniors’ Housing (MVSH) has remained free of any occurrence of the COVID-19 virus. However, MVSH has lost revenues because of requirements to restrict resident admissions and transfers due to expanded outbreak declarations, MVSH has added staffing costs for leaves of absence due to imposed 14-day and 10-day isolation rules, MVSH has added staffing hours for enhanced senior supportive living care, mealtime, housekeeping services and activities. Further, MVSH has been ordered and directed by Alberta Health to meet increased requirements to address care and social isolation, social distancing and restricted access controls to our facilities. MVSH has been ordered to place increased restrictions on staff and maintenance contractor movements between sites, MVSH has added costs to implement measures in the MVSH Pandemic Plan, MVSH has added measures and costs for securing a stable supply of labour, personal protective equipment (PPE) and operating supplies from vendors. The impact for all this at MVSH is estimated to be an additional $50,000 per month to our operating budget for 2020, starting on March 11, 2020. It is likely that seniors housing providers across Alberta are facing similar labour and fiscal impacts due to the pandemic and require provincial support to comply with new requirements.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Seniors and Housing
The Government of Alberta appreciates the efforts of staff working for HMBs and continuing care operators (CCOs), to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep residents safe and healthy. Our government is working hard to address the financial impact of public health orders on HMBs and CCOs, and to ensure they have tools in place to prevent and respond to an outbreak in their buildings. It is also vital we maintain a fiscally responsible approach to spending under Budget 2020, particularly in this challenging economic climate.
On April 20, 2020, our government announced new funding to increase staffing of health care aides to alleviate pressures in contracted continuing care facilities. This increased funding allows for wage top-up of an additional $2 per hour for health care aides, and will help facilities hire additional staff and practicum students. The wage supplement will help alleviate the financial burden for those staff who normally work at several sites, but are now restricted to one site.
Furthermore, on May 19, 2020, our government announced more than $170 million to help keep residents and staff in seniors’ lodges, long-term care (LTC) and designated supportive living (DSL), safe from the virus, with funding being used for enhanced staffing, extra cleaning supplies, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Of that amount, $30 million is being allocated to lodge operators, with the remaining $140 million to LTC and DSL operators. This funding is retroactive to March 15, 2020, and will continue until the public health orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Health are lifted.
Seniors and Housing and Health are working together to ensure this funding is provided to HMBs and CCOs in a timely manner. Organizations began receiving funding on June 8, 2020.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is also supplying PPE (along with directions on how to use it) at no cost to HMBs and contracted CCOs (i.e., LTC and DSL) to keep workers, and the residents they care for, safe. Finally, to support sites dealing with an outbreak, the AHS Coordinated COVID-19 Response Team has been made available to help navigate these situations.
Seniors and Housing, Health, and AHS are meeting regularly with the continuing care associations, representing both contracted and non-contracted supportive living operators from across the province, to gain a thorough understanding of their issues and difficulties. Analysis and discussions are ongoing, and our government remains committed to working closely with HMBs and CCOs to monitor their fiscal challenges and support them in maintaining operations during the pandemic.
Finally, Health is frequently updating guidance and recommendations on how to protect Albertans against the spread of the novel coronavirus, based on evidence and the expert advice of our public health officials.
The Government of Alberta response indicates that specific emergency provincial funding was provided to HMBs and CCOs beginning on June 8, 2020 to allow for the purchase of PPE and other related equipment. Additionally, the response indicates that AHS has supplied PPE to HMBs and contracted CCOs at no cost. This, combined with the two-dollar-per-hour wage subsidy to better support employees during this time, effectively addresses the resolution’s first operative clause.
The resolution response also indicates that the AHS Coordinated COVID-19 Response Team has been made available to assist HMBs and CCOs in procuring and deploying PPE.
The resolution response does not indicate that the Government of Alberta has developed an emergency response plan to address a breakout of COVID-19 at a facility in Alberta. Ensuring both the province and facility operators and staff are prepared to recognize and mitigate the impacts of a breakout is critical to supporting the safety of residents, staff and the broader community. As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, the Government of Alberta has begun introducing plans for the ongoing management of COVID-19, including outbreak response plans. RMA will continue to monitor for updates. RMA assigns this resolution a status of Accepted in Part.