Advocacy Work during the Pandemic

April 2020… I hope this update finds you in good health and adapting to our new normal.  It sure sounds like we are going to be functioning this way for some time to come.  In fact, Premier Kenney will do a televised report to Albertans tonight that will detail the pandemic modelling for this province.  It airs at 7pm and more details will be shared during Wednesday’s briefing and in the Legislature.  However, he has already made it clear we will be following the Chief Medical Officer’s orders for several weeks to come.

Biosimilars Initiative Delay:
Yesterday, I received a letter from Alberta Health that announced extended deadlines to transfer patients who take a biologic to a biosimilar due to the pandemic.  The initial deadline to do this was July 1 and it has now been moved to Jan. 15, 2021. Updated information for patients and prescribers will be posted on the Alberta Blue Cross website.  The patient link is here.

I also was told that the Initiative has been revised to allow temporary access to Humira for patients with Crohn’s Disease during the pandemic.  This allows for a Tier 1 injectable option for patients who may be home-isolating.  The notice was clear this is only for this patient group and the ADBL will not be updated to reflect the temporary adjustment.  Physicians are to submit a typical Special Authorization request for these patients.

PMPRB Update
Like many of our members, the Health Coalition sent a submission to the PMPRB re: their new guidelines that were to be implemented by July 1.  Since then, PMPRB issued an update stating they are making “significant changes” based on the feedback received earlier this year.  They will publish revised Guidelines this spring and there will be another opportunity to provide feedback before they are finalized.  I suspect this will be a tight timeframe as I bet they are still aiming to have these in place for July 1.  However, they have also stated they are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and may revise next steps as things develop.

Caregivers Support
Congratulations to our member, Caregivers Alberta, for the recently announced $3 million grant from the Government of Alberta.  As so many of our members include caregivers, this funding for additional supports is welcomed!  Funding will help Caregivers Alberta “expand supports and increase the reach of these supports so more Albertans can benefit”.  This includes:

  • Compiling an inventory of caregiver supports across the province.
  • Expanding the hours of the Caregiver Advisor phone line.
  • Updating and expanding support programs.
  • Developing a coaching program for caregivers.

You can find more information here:

Alberta’s Continuing Care Legislation Review:
Our Board President, Bruce West, and I met with MLA Richard Gotfried last week to hear about the status of this review (it was announced in Feb.).  The review committee was struck and includes:  a private-for-profit operator (Lorenzo Clonfero); a public operator (Francine Drisner); a not-for-profit operator (Kathy Tam); a member of the Continuing Care Resolution Team (Isabel Henderson); and, a family representative (Leona Ferguson).  We raised a few gaps on this panel including the lack of a homecare representative and a collective representative for residents and families.  The committee was assembled by the Minister of Health so we will follow up to point out the missing representatives.

They were about to launch consultations when the pandemic hit and so their work has been paused, potentially until fall or early winter 2020.  They are looking at different ways to gather input (face to face meetings had been planned for Calgary and Edmonton) and this may mean access to online submissions only with further engagement in later stages (once a draft legislation is developed, for example).

It was pointed out that this is a legislative review and not a system review however, that may happen as a result of this first step.  As a reminder, some potential topics to be assessed by this panel include:

  • standards for health, personal and accommodation services
  • operators’ compliance with licensing requirements and standards
  • options for health-care practitioners so they can work to their full scope of practice
  • eligibility requirements across continuing care
  • alignment of programs and services across government
  • clarity of roles and responsibilities between government, Alberta Health Services and other partners to reduce overlap and duplication

We will continue to monitor the work of this committee and begin drafting a submission.  Please contact me if you would like to be part of this project or have feedback to share, any analysis of the existing legislation, etc.