Scrapping long-term care cuts not enough, more nursing beds needed

EDMONTON, AB – Premier Jim Prentice must immediately commit to adding more long-term care capacity in order to avoid an emergency room crisis, Wildrose Seniors Critic Kerry Towle and Health Critic Heather Forsyth said today.

According to recent reports, Alberta Health Services CEO Vickie Kaminski has pledged to abandon a long-standing plan to cut thousands of long-term care beds from the health care system. Wildrose previously obtained documents showing the government was set to close nearly 1,700 nursing beds across the province by 2017. Towle said that while this backtrack is welcome news, more needs to be done.

“We’re at a critical point right now, where wait times for long-term care are continuing to rise and thousands of seniors are waiting in hospital or at home for an appropriate care bed,” Towle said. “Closing long-term care space was obviously a bad idea, but simply maintaining status quo capacity will do nothing to help those in waiting. Just two years ago this government promised to add 1,000 long-term care nursing beds on an annual basis. It’s time they follow through on that promise.”

Reports surfaced this week showing that the number of seniors waiting to be discharged from hospital and placed in an appropriate care bed, otherwise known as Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients, has nearly doubled over the last decade. Forsyth warned that a lack of action from the government will have dire consequences.

“Albertans have been waiting for action on this file for half a decade now. Quite frankly, it’s unacceptable that seniors are being warehoused in emergency rooms hallways and broom closets because there’s no long-term care capacity,” Forsyth said. “Our hospitals are jammed with patients who could be placed in much more comfortable and appropriate beds. This is not only costing taxpayers a ton of money, but there’s also a cost to the quality of life for these patients.”

Wildrose has proposed re-allocating a greater portion of health care funding to increasing the number of long term care beds as well as an immediate $50 million increase to home care funding, thereby empowering Albertans to continue living in the comfort of their own homes and communities while freeing up hundreds of badly needed acute care hospital beds.