Alberta Hospital is downsizing and closing some of its acute care beds, the province announced Friday.
The 400-bed, mental health facility in northeast Edmonton will close some of its older buildings and move more patients into community care.
Patients with acute mental health care needs will be admitted to beds in other hospitals in the province.
"There is going to be a movement of resources. A greater movement of resources into the community with these patients and movement of staff as well," said Dr. Patrick White, clinical director for addiction and mental health with Alberta Health Services.
The forensic psychiatric unit of the hospital will remain open and newer buildings on the site will continue to operate.
"It's not closing. It's going to change and some of the buildings will close, that's for sure, because they're old, they're high maintenance ... but the site will continue," White said.
'Bottom line here is we're reducing the number of acute mental health beds that are available in the province ... there's already a shortage of beds' —Jodi Cohen, Canadian Mental Health Association
According to a government news release, the move follows a decision by Alberta Health Services not to redevelop the hospital.
But White said patients are not being moved from the hospital because of financial concerns. Some of the patients that are now in acute care beds at the hospital can be better treated in the community, he said.
The announcement was met with skepticism by public health care advocacy group, Friends of Medicare.
"No matter how Alberta Health Services tries to slice it, this is a deep and significant cut to acute care to necessary essential health care here in the province of Alberta," executive director David Eggen said.
He said the hospital will close 250 beds, but White said that number is not accurate.
"We don't know," he said. "And it's not going to be 250 beds moving from this site. That work would be impossible to do even over a three-year period."
The hospital downsizing also drew concern from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Community-based treatment is great, said spokesperson Jodi Cohen, but she wants to know how people with mental health issues will get the treatment they need.
"It's one thing to say we're going close the beds and we're going to transfer these people to the community. Before you do that you need to ensure that there is the capacity in the community to meet those needs," she said.
"We're involved in community support, but absolutely, there's a need for acute beds as well. So bottom line here is we're reducing the number of acute mental health beds that are available in the province ... there's already a shortage of beds."
White expects the changes should take anywhere between one to three years to implement.