Alberta Health Services is considering a plan to temporarily move seniors out of hospitals into continuing care homes within a 100-kilometre radius of their preferred facility.

The first-available bed policy is meant to free up acute-care spaces.

David O'Brien, AHS senior vice president of primary and community care, knows that the move would make it difficult for family members to visit loved ones. 

"We despise this policy, we would rather not have one,"  he said.  "It creates unnecessary moves for clients and frankly, stress, and we’d rather not have it.

"Unfortunately, given the current capacity that we have in the system we need some way to make sure that we're able to continue to keep the acute care flow."

Some Albertans are already facing long journeys to see relatives in long-term care.

Brenda Lee Raketti lives in Hinton. Her parents live in a lodge in Whitecourt, 2 ½ hours away, because it was the only place they could stay together.

"That's very hard on them because there's nobody really, really close," she said.

Raketti said the hospital in Hinton started to charge her $100 a day when she wouldn’t let them transfer her father to a home in Edson without her mother.

However, the lodge in Whitecourt isn’t set up to deal with patients who have her parents’ level of disability so she’s making another trip to speak to the doctor.

"If he says that they can't be there, they'll be shipped out and then again, I don't know where," she said.

Last week, the opposition Wildrose Party said that the government has continued to use the 100-kilometre measure first enacted during the H1N1 outbreak of 2009.

The party gave two examples of how placements are affecting married seniors, a practice they called "divorce by nursing home."


With files from the CBC's James Hees