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Lack of budget, location and timeline for 311 new health care beds angers critics

Public Interest Alberta has accused the Tories of disguising a pre-election promise in a government announcement of new beds for seniors.

Advocacy group calls short-on-details announcement 'pre-election spin'

An advocacy group has accused the Tories of disguising a pre-election promise in a government announcement of new health-care beds for seniors.  

Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel last week announced 311 “restorative care” beds, which would offer intensive therapy outside of hospitals to frail seniors recovering from surgery or a fall.  

But neither his office nor Alberta Health Services can offer specific details about where those beds will be located, how they will operate, and how much it will cost to staff them or when they will be in place.

“This is total pre-election spin,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of the advocacy group Public Interest Alberta.

“I think the fact that they … were unable to answer basic questions that reporters were asking at the press conference means that they're doing this more to prepare for the election than to actually be serious about resolving the crisis that exists with seniors care in Alberta,” he said.

Neither the health minister nor Alberta Health Services can offer specific details about where 311 new senior beds will be located, how they will operate, how much it will cost to staff them or when they will be in place. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
Alberta Health Services said the restorative care beds are intended to “bridge” seniors out of hospitals into more sustainable living arrangements. Through intensive physical therapy and care, the aim is that the health of seniors in restorative beds would improve significantly - perhaps even reducing the need for some patients to go into long-term care spaces.

The province said it intends to use existing money, a pot of $50 million set aside in October for projects such as this, to create 311 spaces in long-term care facilities already in operation. But full details of the plan may not be available to the public until after an election call.

“We’re working with the providers over the next couple of weeks to get the details in place,” said health ministry press secretary Steve Buick, who said he hopes his office can make a more full announcement in April or May.

“The idea that this announcement isn't real somehow because every detail of it isn't announced up front - I think that's just not a valid criticism at all,” he said.  

“It's absolutely normal to announce a funding program and then work out the details of where the funding will go.”

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