Health minister denies beds to be cut at High River hospital

Alberta health officials say long-term care beds at High River General Hospital are not being cut and patients will be welcomed back once it fully reopens.

Fred Horne scolds nurses union for spreading false information, but union denies the charge

Alberta Health Services says long-term care beds at High River General Hospital are not being cut and patients will be welcomed back once it fully reopens.  

Workers at the flood-affected hospital were told by AHS officials that 25 of 75 long-term care beds would not reopen, according to a news release sent out by the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA).

"This amounts to a reduction of service in High River by stealth," said UNA first vice-president Bev Dick.

But Dr. Francois Belanger, the Calgary zone medical director for Alberta Health Services, said no beds will be eliminated.

Minister of Health Fred Horne told CBC Radio there may be some confusion because 25 long-term beds — which were vacant before the flood — are being used temporarily for other services displaced by the flood, such as mental health.

  • Listen to Fred Horne on the confusion over High River hospital beds: 

"It certainly doesn’t excuse anyone from adding to the already considerable anxiety of people in the town who are trying to put their lives back to together by issuing news releases and circulating information that’s not correct," he said.

Horne added the nurses union failed to contact his office to clarify the situation before speaking out on the situation.

Union responds, stands by original statement

Dick responded to Horne's comments Wednesday, saying the union stands by its earlier statement but is relieved to learn there is now a firm commitment for all long-term care beds in High River to reopen.

She dismissed Horne's suggestion that the union should have contacted the minister's office for clarification.

"With respect, UNA members are employed by Alberta Health Services and the statements accurately reported by UNA were made by senior AHS managers," she said. "It would be highly unusual and irregular for UNA to seek clarification from the minister’s office every time AHS announces a policy decision."

"We’re offended by the suggestion UNA should apologize for accurately reporting information that was given to our members by senior officials of their employer, Alberta Health Services," Dick said.

The minister said long-term care residents are presently being moved back in and there is a bed for all patients who wish to return.