More continuing-care beds for rural communities

·2 min read

Thousands of new continuing care beds will be added in facilities across Alberta over the next few years, with many going to rural areas of the province.

On Friday Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro announced more than 6,000 continuing-care beds would be built across the province in the coming years, with 343 beds added this year in Calgary, Edmonton, High Level, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Valleyview, and Westlock. Some 2,600 beds were added in 26 communities in 2020.

Shandro announced the province will bring back a new version of the Affordable Supportive Living Initiative program, which will cost $400 million in operational funding.

The program will create new beds or upgrade existing spaces in publicly-funded facilities across the province.

"Taking innovative approaches to develop additional continuing-care capacity is critically important," Shandro said.

"Through this work, more Albertans will have access to high-quality continuing care, now and in the years ahead."

Of the 6,000 beds being replaced, Shandro estimated that 2,200 of them will be new spaces, and 3,800 will be replacements.

Over the next 20 years, the number of seniors in Alberta is expected to double, up to 1.1. million, which will increase the need for continuing-care services by 62 per cent by 2030.

In a press release, Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, said the move will help move Albertans to the right spaces within the health-care system.

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

The new and improved spaces will help free up spaces in hospitals, as patients are often waiting there until an appropriate placement is available.

“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.”

The increased funding will be directed to rural areas, to allow residents to age closer to home.

Of the 343 beds added this year, 25 of them will go to High Level, 31 to Medicine Hat, 10 to Red Deer, 15 to Valleyview, and 59 to Westlock. Calgary will receive 190 beds, while Edmonton will get 13.

In 2020, the government announced the opening of more continuing-care beds in communities across the province, including 14 in Brooks, 148 in Airdrie, 74 in Drayton Valley, 26 in Drumheller, 67 in Fort McMurray, and a slew in other rural communities.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette

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