Monday, March 3, 2014

Family members banned from care facilities threaten legal action

People who say they're being prevented from visiting family members at long-term care facilities in Alberta, but not told why, are asking the government to step in.

'I was threatened by the physician," said Huguette Hebert, who was banned for a day from seeing her husband staying at a Covenant Health facility in Edmonton, after she asked to stay in the room while he was changed.

She said she wanted to check for bedsores.

"It's time that somebody does something at the government level, like the minister of health," she said at a news conference Thursday. "You know my name, I really request that you intervene now."

Hebert is one of many Albertans who've had problems seeing their loved ones at continuing care facilities, says lobby group Public Interest Alberta.

Shauna McHarg hasn't seen her father in his care facility for two years ­ and has severely restricted visiting hours with her mother.

"They give no reason," she said. "My parents are aging. This started in 2010. It needs to end immediately."

McHarg appealed to the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner, but Covenant Health refuses to release the reason why she was banned, even fighting the matter in court last week.

People banned from facilities should have more options, said the PIA lawyer Allan Garber.

"These decisions are being made without the due process of law," he said. "And that is a fundamental problem. Especially when we know the people on the other side are frail, elderly people."

Covenant Health said it bans visitors only on rare occasions and only when it believes safety of the patients is in jeopardy.

But the facilities have all the power, leaving banned family members with little recourse, said PIA executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon.

"They cannot just ban people from seeing their loved ones without a strict process, evidence and guidelines," he said.

"If the government is not willing to act to empower families with real due process, then we will explore taking legal action to represent the rights of these families to be together," Moore-Kilgannon said.