12/17/2012 03:21 EST | Updated 02/16/2013 05:12 EST

Alberta seniors seeing 25 per cent home care cut in Edmonton, says NDP

EDMONTON - Alberta is reducing the amount of time home care providers spend with some seniors to keep costs of the service on budget.

Details of the changes to the $500-million home care program were announced Monday by a government agency in response to a release by the opposition NDP, which said the cuts could endanger some people.

Kerry Williamson of Alberta Health Services said the changes, which are designed to make the system more efficient, won't hurt anyone.

"We are not reducing the level of care for any of our clients. We will be reducing the amount of time spent with them in some instances," Williamson said.

"For example, administering medication can take as little as two minutes, however, the way we are doing it at the moment, we have 15 minutes set aside for that."

It wasn't immediately clear how many seniors would be subject to the changes that were put into effect earlier this month.

Williamson said there has been an increase of about 5,000 home care clients in the past two years.

"In order to provide the service to all of the clients within the budget that we have, then we have to do things a little bit differently."

NDP Leader Brian Mason said it doesn't make sense to cut a program that helps seniors in their homes that is already cost effective.

Mason said he has been told that some seniors are now receiving 25 per cent less home care services than they were before.

"Home care is a way of reducing health-care costs by having people leave hospitals and be cared for in their homes. It is not only better for them, it is also a very good way to control costs in the health care system," he said.

"To cut home care is very counter-productive."

Edmonton resident Cathy Taylor says her home care provider was already struggling to fit her care into the hour and a half sessions.

Taylor says now it's cut to an hour and 15 minutes.

Mason called on Health Minister Fred Horne to take immediate action to remedy the cuts.