Seniors’ advocate Edith Read has fought the provincial 21-day menu for the past two years, since the program was first introduced. Last Thursday, she was thrilled to hear the announcement from Health Minister Fred Horne that residents at Alberta’s 73 long-term care facilities will now be getting home-cooked meals prepared on-site by the end of this year.
“Kudos to Minister Horne for making the decision to scrap this program,” said Read, who has long called for an end to the serving of pre-made food at rural hospitals and long-term care facilities. “I just think it’s a victory for the thousands of Albertans who are in publicly-owned long-term care facilities and I think it will go a long way to improving their quality of life and restoring their dignity.”
Read, who is the president of the northeast Alberta Council of Aging, has made several contacts with people from across the province, who were also fighting against the serving of what they felt was unappetizing and inedible food. On Friday, her phone was ringing off the hook with people who were excited about the change.
Alberta Health Services will focus on 10 facilities first, but must implement changes in all 73 facilities by Dec. 1 of this year.
“We’ve heard what residents and their families have said about the quality of food in our long-term care facilities and today, we are taking action to improve that,” said Horne in a press release. “We have to remember that these facilities are home to the people who live there, and in many cases, the last home they will ever live in.” They deserve to live in comfort and dignity and eat nutritious food that looks and tastes home-cooked, he said.
Read said she and several others put much time into calling and emailing to register their concerns about the previous menu with AHS brass and government officials. “I feel a great sense of satisfaction because I know that I personally put a lot of hours into this, a lot of time and energy,” she said.
Sometimes, people feel apathetic and wonder why they should even bother to vote, but she felt that the Thursday announcement was an indication that people could have their voices heard. “If you keep at it, and you keep doing it in the correct manner and you rally the forces, government has to listen. We are the people, we are the government,” she said. “If you feel that there’s something wrong and you firmly believe it, just keep at it.”
Shayne Saskiw, Wildrose MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, said that his party believes the Progressive Conservative government should “apologize for forcing seniors to eat this unhealthy food at long-term care centres across the province for over two and a half years.
“It’s a little disturbing that the health minister is patting himself on the back for fixing a problem that the PC government created in the first place,” he added.
People sometimes ask what the Wildrose can do, as an opposition force, and this was one example where the Wildrose, in conjunction with seniors’ advocates, were able to force the issue, said Saskiw.
He also noted the battle is not over, since the changes apply only to long-term care facilities, and that rural hospitals will still offer the 21-day menu. “The Wildrose is going to fight to see that all auxiliary and rural hospitals have locally cooked food where the produce is bought locally, where we have local staff preparing it onsite.”