Blog | June 06, 2013

Province says need was greater elsewhere

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON-Edmonton won’t get any new assisted living beds in 2013 under the Alberta government’s $68.3-million supportive living initiative, the province said Wednesday.Calgary organizations will receive $49 million in capital grants to construct 692 units, while Red Deer will receive $10.2 million to build 120 spaces.The remaining $9.1 million in Alberta Supportive Living Initiative grants – known as ASLI – will go to build 108 new beds in Slave Lake, Valleyview, and Rocky Mountain House.Alberta Health spokesman Bart Johnson said the province did not request proposals for new facilities in Edmonton because Alberta Health Services reported that waiting lists are longer in other parts of the province.“The need was recognized as greatest in the communities that were awarded the grants,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t mean there is no need in Edmonton, but we have a limited pot of money through the ASLI grants.”Since 2007-08, the provincial government has given out $336.8 million in ASLI grants, which has resulted in the construction of 3,861 new assisted living units.Of that, Edmonton received $56.8 million to build 653 assisted living units, while Calgary received $85.3 million to create 866 new units. Johnson said 2013-14 is the first year Edmonton hasn’t received funding for new beds.Edmonton late last year had 299 people waiting for space in continuing care facilities and Calgary had 517 people.“Alberta Health Services assists Alberta Health related to community needs, however does not approve where spaces are located,” Alberta Health Services spokesman Kerry Williamson said in a written statement.In a four-year capital plan for seniors facilities made public by the Wildrose party earlier this year, Alberta Health Services said Edmonton needs 132 new supported living beds, while Calgary needs 902.The document shows that all of the required Edmonton beds are “funded,” but it is not clear who funded them or whether construction has started. AHS could not clarify Wednesday.“We are not keeping up to what is actually needed, regardless of what Alberta Health Services and the government say we need,” Wildrose seniors critic and MLA Kerry Towle said.“We have more than 436 people sitting in acute-care hospital beds, and there are 800 on the continuing care placement list. That’s what we need right now. Even with these announcements, it’s not enough to even deal with this year’s backlog.”Under the terms of their agreement, grant recipients must operate their facilities as assisted living spaces for 30 years, after which time they own the buildings outright.In 2013-14, recipients included Christensen Communities, which received $9.6 m illion to build 123 units in smaller towns and cities, and Covenant Health, which received $18.8 million to build 250 beds in Calgary. AgeCare, owned by former Calgary Health Region head Kabir Jivraj, received $17.1 million to build 250 spaces in Calgary despite an ongoing investigation into alleged mistreatment of seniors at two care homes in Brooks.“It is smart to target your dollars where the need is greatest, but you shouldn’t be giving millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations who will later pocket that when they sell,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta. “This isn’t just a question of privatizing services, this is public tax dollars going to corporate real estate.”Moore-Kilgannon said Premier Alison Redford has broken her election promise to build 1,000 long-term care beds.“We’ve seen a deliberate transition in the language to obfuscate Albertans’ understanding. Long-term care beds are the only beds that fall under the Nursing Homes Act, which actually sets standards for care,” he said.“We have a growing, aging population, and if we do not invest continually in the capacity for seniors care, then seniors will also be paying a lot of money privately, filling up our acute-care hospitals or going without care.“This government is flying by the seat of their pants.”kkleiss@edmontonjournal.comtwitter.com/ablegreporterRead the article at © Copyright The Edmonton Journal