Alberta's UCP government keeps promise to add continuing care beds

The Alberta government, through its Affordable Supportive Housing Initiative, will be adding almost 350 continuing care beds at facilities in select communities this year.

The Kenney government says they are making good on one of their 2019 election promises, ensuring that seniors in need of long-term care will have the space they need in the coming years.

Officials say $400 million will be spent on operational costs for more than 6,000 continuing care beds. The funding, which was originally announced as part of the UCP government's platform, will help install the beds in 24 communities across Alberta.

In 2021, 343 beds will be added in Calgary, Edmonton, High Level, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Valleyview and Westlock.

The breakdown of this year's new beds is as follows:

  • Calgary: 190
  • Edmonton: 13
  • High Level: 25
  • Medicine Hat: 31
  • Red Deer: 10
  • Valleyview: 15
  • Westlock: 59

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the work currently being done is in response to the previous government's failure to support the system.

"The previous government cancelled (Affordable Supportive Living Initiative) in their first year in office and clearly didn’t have a plan to add new beds to the system or replace dilapidated facilities with shared rooms that don’t allow for privacy," he said in a release.

"We're fixing that by bringing back a new and improved version of ASLI that will take care of our seniors and provide the high-quality care they deserve."

Representatives of seniors groups say the addition of new beds will improve the health and safety of residents.

"This is an innovative and positive approach to add much-needed spaces and I am pleased our members are active in supporting this initiative," said Arlene Adamson, president of the Alberta Seniors & Community Housing Association in a statement.

"Our sector needs government's support to ensure seniors can age successfully by optimizing the full continuum of housing by bringing the care supports at the right time in the right place."

PUBLIC, NOT PRIVATE

Meanwhile, the Alberta NDP says the government's announcement doesn't address some of the real issues facing Alberta seniors.

"I'm disappointed to see Tyler Shandro focus so much of his attention on increasing privately operated beds instead of strengthening the public system," said the NDP's health critic David Shepherd in a statement.

He says there is also no way of knowing what levels of care the new beds will provide.

"We know that supportive living level 4, and dementia care, will be in great demand in the coming years. I hope he will focus this spending on projects that meet Albertans' health needs, and not simply ones that maximize the operator’s profit margins with lower levels of care."

Shepherd also cited concerns about Shandro's lack of a plan to address "critical staffing shortages" that, in some cases, have resulted in seniors leaving their communities.

Last year, 2,600 beds were set up in 26 communities.