Alberta to open 464 continuing care spaces over next 12 months

Premier Jim Prentice and Health Minister Stephen Mandel on Tuesday announced that 464 continuing care spaces will be opened over the next year, in an effort to free up beds in the province’s crowded hospitals.

20 per cent of freed-up beds to be set aside for ER patients

Jim Prentice announced Tuesday that the province would open 464 continuing care beds for seniors in an effort to clear up space in the province's hospitals. (Trish Estabrooks/CBC)

Premier Jim Prentice and Health Minister Stephen Mandel on Tuesday announced that 464 continuing care spaces will be opened over the next year in an effort to free up beds in the province’s crowded hospitals.

“These challenges can’t wait,” Prentice said during the announcement at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital.

“We believe that we'll be able to see impacts immediately in the short term, we will also be better able to open up needed beds ... in both our acute care and emergency care system.”

About 700 Alberta seniors are currently in hospital awaiting placement in long-term and continuing care facilities.

One hundred and forty-nine spaces will be opened up in Edmonton, while Calgary will see 194 continuing care beds.

The remaining spaces will be created in throughout other areas of the province.

Mandel said that the move will open up space in hospital for other patients, while providing better care for the seniors who are now in acute care.

“I think it is really vitally important that people have the right kind of care,” Mandel said.

The second part of the plan will help the seniors remaining in acute care by using $60 million in funding from the Affordable Supportive Living Initiative (ASLI).  

Vacant beds dedicated for ER, ‘rapid flow’ patients

Twenty per cent of the newly vacant beds will be dedicated to patients who are admitted into emergency departments.

Alberta Health Services president Vickie Kaminski said that another portion of the freed up room would be dedicated to “rapid flow” beds, which are for patients who are not seriously ill but still need consultation with a doctor.

She said that allows doctors to see rapid flow patients quickly and make the decision whether to admit them to hospital or to discharge them.

More nursing home space needed: Wildrose

The province’s opposition parties derided the announcement.

“This announcement today does nothing to get us away from the precipice,” said Dr. Bob Turner, who is running for the NDP against Mandel in the riding of Edmonton-Whitemud.

He accused the Conservatives of just “moving money around” and said the newly appointed health minister has not had time to properly address the issue of hospital overcrowding.

“Mr Mandel has no ability to manage this looming crisis. I mean, he’s still reading his briefing books. It’s really an embarrassment."

Wildrose MLA Kerry Towles called the province’s focus on continuing care beds misguided. She argued that many seniors who are now in acute care beds need long-term spaces in nursing homes.

“Putting people, putting the clients into continuing care beds, which is lower level of care, will only force them back into hospital,” she said.

“They will return to hospital by ambulance, and they will end up in the exact same acute care bed.“

Towles said the announced beds don’t make up for the continuing care spaces the government has shut down in the past.

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