A spokesperson for Alberta health minister Adriana LaGrange says Client-Directed Home Care Invoicing (CDHCI) will be offered in the AHS North Zone, which includes Lakeland communities, “in the coming months.”

The program allows privately-run home care providers to invoice AHS directly for services, as opposed to having clients submit receipts for reimbursement.

“CDHCI was developed and implemented in Edmonton Zone initially as a pilot program in spring of 2022, and was then further expanded to Calgary Zone in winter of 2022/23,” Charlotte Taillon said via email. “Plans are currently being developed with AHS to expand and implement CDHCI in North, Central, and South Zones over the coming months.”

Taillon is the minister’s senior press secretary.

Kathryn Vasseur, who owns Apidae Compassion Care, says CDHCI is an important way of making home care convenient and accessible for clients who need some help in their homes—and who might otherwise be moving into an assisted living residence or a care facility.

Some of these clients have to wait in area hospitals for space in a more appropriate residence. Some of them, she says, could still be living at home.

“We have so many seniors tying up acute care beds in Cold Lake, Bonnyville, Elk Point, and Saint Paul,” Vasseur said. “If we could get some funding to help get them back at home, and provide support in their homes, it would free up a lot of resources in the hospitals.”

Jeff Wurzer operates Just Like Family home care in North Edmonton. He had previously offered care to clients in Bonnyville and area as well, but he says making clients pay up front and then file for reimbursement was a barrier to them requesting and receiving care.

In his Edmonton operation, he says 60 to 70 per cent of his clients use CDHCI. “It’s steady, it’s reliable. It keeps a business like mine afloat because as other stuff goes up and down, they’re pretty consistent,” he said. 

“You need a base of people like that so you can help other people who need just a week worth of care or a day per week, or just want a little bit of help to get on their feet.”

Once a client is approved by AHS Wurzer says they are given a list of providers. “Within a day or two we’re helping them,” he said. Most of his clients are approved for up to 40 hours of care per week.

Bonnyville – Cold Lake – St. Paul MLA Scott Cyr says he wants to see CDCHI offered in the AHS North Zone. 

“We’ve had some time where Edmonton and Calgary have had this program. I would say that they’ve had more than enough time to be able to start looking at us,” he said. 

He has taken the issue up with Martin Long, parliamentary secretary for rural health, and says the northern MLAs will advocate to bring the program to AHS North Zone regions.

“We do have some contractors who are ready and willing to go,” he said. “This is a valued program for Edmonton and Calgary. It’s going to be equally valued for us here in the north.”

Vasseur says she understands taking the time to roll out the program properly, but in the meantime the delay is hurting her business and discouraging others from operating here.

“Home care agencies aren’t going to move into this area if the program isn’t here,” she said. “But once that program opens up, they’ll start moving into our area and creating competition, which is a good thing.”