Alberta Health Services came under heavy criticism today over a controversial policy proposed for seniors' care in the province.

The proposed plan would allow Alberta Health to move patients — primarily senior citizens — to wherever the first long term care bed becomes available, provided it is within 100 kilometres of the patient’s home.

Under the policy, patients can be moved without regard to the locations of partners or family members, resulting in some cases in separating married couples.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon at the legislature, David O’Brien, a senior vice president with Alberta Health Services (AHS) said they don’t like the policy, but the fact remains that it does place seniors and free up hospital beds more quickly.

"It unfortunately is highly necessary in an environment where we have insufficient community capacity... to support," he said.

But several MLAs gathered at the legislature this afternoon attacked the policy, with MLA Bridget Pastoor going so far as to call it "inhumane."

And Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle agrees.

"This policy is detrimental to families," she said. "We know there is a negative health impact when you move  away from their community, away from their family."

Towle added that the situation becomes even more dire in the case of a secondary move — especially for those patients suffering from Alzheimers or dementia.

"[This] is a terrible policy," she said. "It needs to be removed from Alberta Health Services policy. Albertans want it removed and it is unnecessary."

Following the critique, AHS CEO Chris Eagle acknowledged the policy does need to be reviewed.  

"I think we're going to have to go back and look at that again," he said. "Obviously it's having impacts that are quite severe in terms of the profile of AHS and the care of patients."

For now, AHS isn’t saying whether it will actually plan to eliminate the policy, or will instead change the distance range it permits patients to be moved.