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Thousands of beds to be added, replaced at Alberta continuing care facilities

More than 6,000 new or replacement continuing care beds will be available in facilities across Alberta over the next few years. File / Global News

More than 6,000 new or replacement continuing care beds will be available in facilities across Alberta over the next few years.

On Friday morning, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the province is bringing back a new version of the Affordable Supportive Living Initiative (ASLI) program, which will see the beds added or replaced over the next four years.

Subject to final contracts, Shandro said 2,200 of the beds will be new to the system, while 3,800 will be replacement spaces.

Read more: Alberta seniors call for better care and profits out of long-term care homes

The province said $400 million in operational funding will be spent over the next four years for the new publicly funded care beds.

The process began last fall with expression of interest requests. Twenty-four communities were identified through a procurement process that requires operators to pay for the capital costs of building new beds without additional capital spending from government.

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“These projects play an important role in increasing continuing care spaces across the province now and in the future,” Shandro said.

Read more: Alberta report urges home care to handle predicted surge in continuing care system

Five contracts were already awarded to fast-track additional spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, the health minister said.

In Phase 1 of the program this year, 343 beds will be added in Calgary, Edmonton, High Level, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Valleyview and Westlock.

“Adding new beds to the system ensures that Albertans will be able to reside in a facility that provides them the right care at the right time, rather than at a hospital,” Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said in a news release Friday.

“This increases our acute care capacity and ensures that the health-care needs of all Albertans are met in an appropriate setting.”

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Shandro said the number of seniors living in Alberta is expected to double to more than 1.1 million by 2040. The need for continuing care services is expected to grow by 62 per cent by 2030.

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Shandro said the new or improved continuing care beds will also help free up space in hospitals, where patients often wait until a space in a facility becomes available.

“There should be beds but there aren’t because patients are waiting for continuing care spaces,” Shandro said of hospital space.

“Patients aren’t widgets. The real issue is that when a patient is in the wrong place, it’s not the best care for that patient. We need to build the right spaces so that continuing care is there when the next resident needs it.”

NDP health critic David Shepherd said he would have liked to learn more details about what levels of care would be provided.

“We know that supportive living level 4, and dementia care, will be in great demand in the coming years. I hope he will focus this spending on projects that meet Albertans’ health needs, and not simply ones that maximize the operator’s profit margins with lower levels of care,” he said in a statement.

The 343 beds being added this year break down as follows:

  • Calgary: 190
  • Edmonton: 13
  • High Level: 25
  • Medicine Hat: 31
  • Red Deer: 10
  • Valleyview: 15
  • Westlock: 59

Shandro said the number of beds announced Friday is on top of the 2,600 beds added in 26 Alberta communities in 2020.

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