The province’s announcement to partner with Covenant Health to build two demonstration facilities for continuum care, including one in Red Deer, makes it the third time the Progressive Conservative government has promised the community such a facility.
Red Deer North Liberal candidate Michael Dawe said he is waiting to see if it happens this time.
Dawe, a former chair of Red Deer Regional Hospital Board and former trustee of David Thompson Health Region, said in the late 1980s the province was committed to building the Hewson Centre, with the full spectrum of care, including long-term care, a day program for seniors and respite care.
“They bought the land. They twice announced it was a go-ahead. It’s still a vacant lot,” said Dawe on Thursday.
The Hewson Centre was to be built on 47th Avenue, south of Pioneer Lodge. The land is being used as an overflow parking area for the Red Deer Public Market.
On Wednesday, the province announced 100-bed facilities in both Red Deer and Calgary that will be models for the new concept where residents won’t have to move to get more care.
The province contributed about $30 million and Covenant Health put in $21 million to construct the buildings in two years.
The two-storey Red Deer project, first announced in 2010, will be built in Clearview Ridge, west of 30th Avenue and south of 67th Street, directly south of a proposed commercial centre.
Dawe said construction may happen, but Health Minister Fred Horne was fuzzy on the operating costs, staffing and how much long-term care would actually be available.
“I would want to see something a lot more concrete than just some vague promises on the eve of an election. The government’s track record on these things is actually poor.”
“Covenant Health has a good record, but they can only do so much if they are not provided with the resources to make it truly work.”
Dawe said he’s heard from too many people in facilities where staff is spread too thin.
“We keep being told that no, there isn’t a problem. We have yet to have the acknowledgement that there are problems. How are you going to fix a problem if you keep denying that there is one?”
Dawe said all Red Deer’s senior facilities are now either run by for-profit companies or non-profit societies, which has reduced the province’s direct responsibility for care.
He said there have been many cases around Alberta where those running the facilities say they can’t do what the province says they have to do with the resources they are provided. The only option left is to increase the fees they charge residents.
“At a certain point, people can’t afford that.”