Alberta briefs – December 11

Alberta’s NDP says the Stelmach government’s own data shows the wait for a long-term care bed has tripled since 2004.

Long-term care bed wait has tripled: NDP

EDMONTON — Alberta’s NDP says the Stelmach government’s own data shows the wait for a long-term care bed has tripled since 2004.

Leader Brian Mason presented the data Thursday and said he requested the information more than two months ago.

Premier Ed Stelmach promised his Conservative government would create 600 new long-term care beds just before the 2008 election.

Mason says it’s critical that Stelmach keep his promise, since 1,721 elderly people have been medically assessed as requiring long-term care, and 656 were in acute care beds in hospitals.

Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta, says the province’s elderly population is growing and the province has no excuse not to provide medically necessary services for frail elderly.

“The seniors who are on these waiting lists are victims of an ideologically driven government that is deliberately reducing long-term care beds so seniors and their families are having to pay privately for their medical necessities.”

Child, mom injured in shelter collision

EDMONTON — A three-year-old girl was briefly pinned under a vehicle after it crashed into an Edmonton bus shelter she and her mother were standing in.

Police say the SUV was turning right onto a street Thursday in northeast Edmonton when the driver lost control and slammed into the bus shelter.

Mother and child were taken to hospital and were to be kept overnight for observation, but police say it’s amazing that they had no major injuries.

The driver of the vehicle was also taken to hospital and was treated and released.

Police say no charges have been laid yet.

Icy roads may also have been factors in two fatal crashes Thursday.

A 19-year-old woman lost control of her car and it jumped a median, smashing head-on with a semi-truck, on the Yellowhead in Edmonton.

On Highway 15 near Chipman, a truck trying to pass another vehicle crashed into a minivan travelling the other way.

Driver of the minivan died at the scene and several others were taken to hospital.

RCMP said roads were slippery in some spots, but it’s “normal winter driving conditions.”

Police advise drivers slow down and with caution.

Giant rodent found dead at zoo

CALGARY — The Calgary Zoo is investigating another death of an animal in its care.

A female capybara named Dhali died Dec. 5, officials confirmed Thursday.

“Preliminary findings indicated that human error may have been a factor, therefore the individual involved was immediately reassigned to non-animal care duties pending the results of the investigation,” said Cathy Gaviller, director of conservation, education and research.

“If human error is proven to have been a factor, appropriate action, including potential disciplinary measures, will be taken. We are taking this incident very seriously and our senior animal care staff are currently undertaking a thorough investigation.”

Gaviller said no further information would be released until interviews with several individuals are concluded, likely by next week.

CTV Calgary said it had learned the animal, a rodent from Central and South America that can grow to four feet in length and weigh up to 140 pounds, was crushed to death in a gate at the back of the holding area.

The capybaras arrived at the Calgary Zoo in August 2009.

The zoo has been the subject of controversy for several animal deaths and mishaps in recent years.

Back in January, Zoocheck Canada called for an independent inquiry after a Turkmenian markhor got caught in a rope in its enclosure and strangled to death.

In May 2008, 41 stingrays died after the opening of an interactive exhibit where people could pet them in the water. The zoo’s president admitted that human error was to blame for those deaths.

This last March, two more stingrays died at the zoo and officials blamed it on a shipping problem.

And in June, there was a furore after a zoo patron snapped a photograph of a gorilla holding a knife that had been accidentally left by a keeper in the gorilla enclosure. Zoo officials said the primates don’t understand the idea of using weapons and were never in any real danger.

Nevertheless, Gaviller said at the time it was an “oversight” by an experienced keeper and promised the zoo would review procedures with all staff to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

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