Alberta provides one-time $68.5M cash infusion for continuing care, other agencies

·2 min read

The Alberta government will provide a one-time infusion of $68.5 million to continuing-care operators, home-care providers and facilities that provide addiction and mental health treatment, to help them defray additional costs incurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Thanks to vaccines, we're hopefully seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but our fight is far from over," Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday at a news conference.

"We should all be proud of what Alberta has achieved these last few weeks and months," he said. "We have made gains and we cannot lose sight of that. But as we begin to ease restrictions, moving to Phase 1 in the plan we announced last week, starting this coming Monday, we must remain vigilant.

"Today's announcement is part of that work. We are not letting up and we are not letting our guard down. We'll keep fighting for those who are most vulnerable to COVID and we'll keep increasing the protections for those who work with them."

The money will help cover the costs operators have faced for cleaning, personal protective equipment and increased staffing.

The funding breaks down as follows:

  • $48 million for non-contracted licensed supportive living.

  • $9.9 million for residential addiction and mental health treatment facilities.

  • $9.6 million for home care.

  • $1 million for residential community hospices.

Seniors have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta, Kenney said.

The average age of those who have died is 82, more than 25 per cent of people who have been hospitalized are over the age of 80, and two-thirds of all deaths have been residents of long-term care facilities.

"One of the greatest tragedies of COVID-19 has been the devastating impact it's had on many seniors, especially those living in nursing homes or continuing care, long-term care facilities," Kenney said. "That has been true both here in Alberta, across Canada and around the world."

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said operators of congregate-care facilities for seniors have taken on additional costs to pay for screening workers, enforcing visitors' restrictions, testing for outbreaks, and providing mandatory masks for staff working in patient-care areas.

"These are important steps, but they have increased the costs that operators face, and it's important that every organization has the supports that they need to deliver the care that Albertans deserve," Shandro said. "So much has changed for Albertans living in continuing care since the pandemic began."

Calgary MLA Richard Gotfried, who chairs the provinces' continuing care review advisory panel, noted that continuing-care centres — both private and those operated by Alberta Health Services — have been doing excellent work during difficult times.

"These added costs are not for extras … these have been to keep residents safe."

The money will be shared by facilities throughout the province that operated between March 15, 2020, and the end of March 2021.