Hundreds protest long-term care cuts in Strathmore

More than one hundred people rallied in Strathmore Saturday to protest cuts to the long-term care unit at the Strathmore General Hospital.

Hospital is just one of many in Alberta facing long-term care cuts

More than one hundred gathered Saturday to protest the closure of the long-term care unit at Strathmore General Hospital. (Olsy Sorokina/CBC)

More than one hundred people rallied Saturday to protest plans to close the long-term care unit at the Strathmore General Hospital.

The hospital is one of many across the province seeing cuts to long-term care facilities. Health-care officials had been anticipating a 4.5 per cent increase in health care funding when the government handed down the most recent provincial budget — instead, they got an increase of 3 per cent.

"They've totally gone back on their word and failed these people," said Glen Scott, vice president of the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE). "It makes me question, what are their plans for Strathmore Hospital in general?"

Alberta Health Services announced in April that it will close the 23-bed long-term care unit at the hospital and move the residents to nearby Sagewood, a private, for-profit facility owned by AgeCare Ltd.

Union representatives and families of those in the long-term care unit say the closure will ultimately make health care more expensive and disruptive for patients who end up needing transport to see a doctor.

Right now, those in long-term care have easy access to doctors by staying in the hospital.

Their families say additional transport back and forth to hospitals will only cause more trouble down the road.

"As soon as she gets sick, gets pneunomia or something, they have to take her out," said Martin VanBostelen, whose wife is in long-term care at Strathmore General Hospital.

The decision to close the unit while giving $21-million in taxpayer subsidies to build the 30-bed Sagewood facity is something union officials say they don't understand.

"They're just playing a shell game," said Scott. "All the government is really accomplishing is the outsourcing of care."

"We're seeing evidence of corporations gouging residents by adding extra fees for services like help with bathing and getting wheeled to the dining room," he said. "Meanwhile, AHS is closing public beds and eliminating that option."

Unless the government decides to keep the unit open, patients will be moved in October.