Alberta boosts long-term care budget with emphasis on community, home care

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said the investments in long-term care are needed to meet the growing demands on the system. (CBC - image credit)
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said the investments in long-term care are needed to meet the growing demands on the system. (CBC - image credit)

Jason Copping, Alberta's health minister, outlined Friday how a 15 per cent boost in the provincial budget for continuing care services will help the province's seniors and those living with disabilities.

While speaking at the Carewest Colonel Belcher continuing care facility in Calgary, Copping said the budget tabled Tuesday allocated $4.3 billion to continuing care services, an increase of about $570 million over the last budget.

Copping said the investments are needed to meet the growing demands on the system. He also said the UPC government is responding to what aging Albertans want in terms of care in the final chapters of their lives.

"Alberta seniors and persons with disabilities deserve high quality care in their homes and communities, close to their families and friends," Copping said, noting that seniors make up roughly 16 per cent of Alberta's population.

According to the health minister, the 2023-24 budget for long-term care includes $2 billion for community care, $1.4 billion for continuing care homes and $893 million for home care.

The additional money, Copping said, will help the province's long-term care system by boosting staff numbers in care centres and expanding care options for people who would prefer aging in place.

"This is especially important in rural communities, and a significant amount of this investment will be spent there," he said. 

Feisal Keshavjee, the chair of the Alberta Continuing Care Association, said the additional funds will give Albertans more long–term care options and improve seniors' quality of life.

"Investing in the continuing care sector is vital as it ensures that our rapidly-aging population receives the care and support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives," he said. 

The provincial budget also sets aside nearly $90 million for long-term care capital projects, with $310 million to be spent over the next three fiscal years.

Keshavjee said the capital projects will bring much-needed improvements to the province's long-term care infrastructure. He noted that more than half of Alberta's long-term care homes are more than 50 years old and no longer meet design standards.

The capital project funds include $73 million for the Bridgeland Riverside Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, which is under construction, and $90 million for completing the Gene Zwozdesky Centre in Edmonton.

Meanwhile, the NDP opposition said the UCP government is trying to play catch-up with voters ahead of this spring's election.

NDP seniors critic Lori Sigurdson said this week's budget includes an increase in accommodation fees for continuing care. She reiterated a call for the government to appoint a non-partisan seniors advocate to represent their interests.