The Alberta government is reversing a controversial new policy that would have seen toiletries and snacks taken away from mental health patients at Alberta Hospital Edmonton.

The policy was part of a plan to standardize supplies across the province and was supposed to save Alberta Health Services $70,000 a year.

Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne said he learned of the planned cuts Saturday.

Horne is leading an implementation committee to review proposed changes at Alberta Hospital.

He said he was concerned because a commitment was made not to make any changes until the review is complete.

"I was also concerned just because of the added stress and uncertainty for patients and their families at Alberta Hospital right now and certainly didn't want to see anything done to add to that."

Horne said he expressed his concerns to Health Minister Ron Liepert on Saturday.

Then, on behalf of the government, he asked Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett to rescind the policy until the review of the hospital is complete.

"I suspect that probably this is maybe part of a broader system-wide initiative to try and achieve efficiencies in the health system, which is rightly the role of Alberta Health Services," Horne said.

"But … in this particular case, given the situation at Alberta Hospital, I felt it was important, and minister Liepert felt it was important, that we ask that this policy not apply to those patients."

Nearly cried

Krista Liecht, a psychiatrist at Alberta Hospital, said she nearly started crying when she heard about the reversal.

"I'm just very grateful to the government that they've given us a Christmas miracle, and it really does mean a lot to me and to the patients."

Liecht said she's overjoyed by the news.

"It just seems that maybe, finally, the government is hearing a bit of what we're saying," she said.

"For them to show that sort of sense of compassion and to just show that they're human beings and they're willing to actually admit that they made a mistake and come forward and give the patients back what they deserve — I mean, it was such a wonderful thing, actually. It really made my weekend."

Last week, an Alberta Health Services spokesperson said basic toiletry provisions cost the province $70,000 annually and that they were being phased out to bring Alberta Hospital in line with other provincial hospitals.

The review by Horne's committee will be completed sometime in early 2010.