EDMONTON — Around 600 people have attended a meeting hosted by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees to discuss impending bed closures at Alberta Hospital.
Alberta Health Services revealed plans last month to close around 150 beds in the 410-bed mental-health institution and transfer low-risk patients to community living facilities.
The AUPE, the province’s largest union, represents 750 employees at the hospital.
The union’s president, Doug Knight, said the closures will have a devastating impact on Albertans with mental illness.
He says such people will fall through the cracks and end up on the streets throughout western Canada and the North.
Knight says the union isn’t opposed to increased community-based care, but there is still an increasing need for acute care in the hospital.
The crowd, made up of staff from the hospital, other union members and the general public, gathered to hear a panel with Knight, mental health advocate Austin Mardon and Dr. Krista Leicht, a psychiatrist at the hospital.
Knight said he was pleased with the turnout and discussions.
“It went very well,” he said. “The people who were here spoke eloquently and told their very personal concerns and how it’s affected them.”
The next step, he added, is launching a letter writing campaign to encourage concerned residents to contact their MLAs protesting the closures.
“This isn’t just a union thing,” he said. “There’s real people out there affected by this decision.”
The union also hopes to meet with Health Minister Ron Liepert to express their concern.