Long-term care beds a focus at annual AUPE Grandparents Day barbecue

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Long-term care beds a focus at annual AUPE Grandparents Day barbecue

As a swing band plays, seniors sit at tables while eating their free lunch below the Alberta Legislature Building at an annual barbecue hosted by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. It's the 16th year the AUPE has hosted the Grandparents Day event at the legislature and hundreds of seniors attended. 

"Originally it started out to bring to light the issues surrounding long-term care within Alberta," said Susan Slade, vice-president of AUPE. "So we've continued that as the issues around long-term care still haven't been solved."

Long-term care beds were a hot topic of discussion at Thursday's event. In 2015, one of the key election promises from Alberta NDP was to open 2000 long-term care beds.

The AUPE and its members continue to call for the Alberta Government to fulfil that promise, nearly three years later.

"We're hoping again that the government keeps their promise of 2000 publicly-funded beds, which will allow people that aren't fortunate enough to afford the high prices of the private facilities," Slade said.

Friends of Medicare, a group whose goal is to raise awareness of medical concerns in Alberta, shares the same sentiment to see the Alberta Government open those long-term care beds so that seniors don't have to for public long-term care beds.

"We haven't seen the kind of movement and the kind of cultural shift that we were looking for when this government came in 2015," said Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.

Lori Sigurdson, the minister of Seniors and Housing attended the barbecue on Wednesday. She's confident the Alberta government will deliver on its promise.

"We're on track to achieve that goal by the end of our mandate, so we're very excited to be able to provide that because there's significant need in our community for that," said Sigurdson.

She said the province will add 2000 long-term care beds as promised by spring of 2019.

Alberta Health issued a statement to CBC News on Wednesday citing that it's on track to meet the commitment.

"In addition to the 2,000-bed total, the province continues to work on adding hundreds of additional beds expected to be completed beyond 2019, including those from the Calgary complex care facility, Norwood and Willow Square," it reads.

As of March 31, 2015, there were a total of 23,742 continuing care spaces; compared to March 31, 2016 (24,704 beds); and March 31, 2017 (25,080).

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca