Alberta needs 20,000 more nursing home beds, Liberals say

Alberta needs 20,000 more nursing home beds, Liberals say

Alberta is short 20,000 nursing home beds according to a new study released Monday by the province’s Liberal party.

Donna Wilson, a nursing professor at the University of Alberta and a Liberal candidate in the next election, says the province has 16,445 beds, half of what is needed.

She says the province has one nursing home bed for 245 Albertans, compared to 111 internationally.

“Alberta, unfortunately, is leading Canada and much of the western world, in having the least available nursing home care,” she said.

Wilson says this creates full emergency rooms, full hospitals and increased pressures on families who have to care for seniors.

The government announced 1,500 new spaces last week through grants. Liberal leader David Swann says the money will be given to private, for-profit companies that operate seniors homes.

Problems are also cropping up at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton. 

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said 1,346 surgeries were cancelled across Alberta in the first nine months of 2014-2015. The number of surgery cancellations at the Stollery have almost doubled over the previous year. 

Notley blamed the government for not keeping up with the population increases. 

"We have the youngest population in the country,” she said. “That means you need to build more beds for kids.”

Health Minister Stephen Mandel said emergency surgeries at the Stollery have increased 17 per cent over the past year. That and the number of flu cases have put a strain on the system. 

"We do 158,000 surgeries a year, we cancelled 1,300," he said. "For those people who get their surgery cancelled, we feel very bad but at the same time we're doing all we can."

Mandel called Wilson's long-term care numbers unrealistic.