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Red Deer region short 70 long-term care beds

The Red Deer region needs 70 more continuing care beds to free up hospital beds occupied by seniors waiting to be moved.

The Red Deer region needs 70 more continuing care beds to free up hospital beds occupied by seniors waiting to be moved.

Last week, Alberta Health Services’ chief executive Vickie Kaminski spoke of the demand in Red Deer and Calgary, including for long-term care.

Coincidently, the 2013-2014 annual report for AHS showed Central Alberta has 64 fewer long-term care beds this year.

The number of beds dropped from 2,351 in March 2013 to 2,287.

“The government promised almost five years ago they would build a thousand continuing care beds a year. They have not come close to doing that. Their actions have spoken louder than words,” said Wildrose seniors critic Kerry Towle on Wednesday.

Last year, only 335 new continuing care beds were added across the province. The report said since 2010, a total of 3,369 new beds have come on board.

The Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA said the Progressive Conservative government has also misled the public on its plans to close long-term care beds.

“For the last two years, they have denied they were closing any long-term care beds. I asked the question in the house many times about the closure of long-term care beds and every single time the minister and associate minister of Seniors stood up and said we weren’t closing any beds. That we had adequate bed space. That’s clearly not the case.”

Last week, Kaminski said AHS was abandoning its plan to cut 1,000 long-term care beds over four years.

Towle said a focus on reducing long-term care beds has forced seniors to wait in acute care hospital beds, preventing other people in need from getting those beds.

To address the immediate needs of seniors, Wildrose previously proposed a $50-million increase in home care funding so more seniors who want to stay in their homes can do so with the proper level of care to free up beds in the system, including acute care beds.

“That prevents people from coming into the system. What it does is open up the ability for us to address the needs that are most critical right now,” Towle said.

The AHS report said home care clients increased by 12 per cent across the province since 2010-11.

The bed count in the report also showed Central Alberta had 201 more supportive living beds as of this year. The number of beds increased from 1,149 in March in 2013 to 1,350.

Less care is provided with supported living compared to long-term care.

On Wednesday, AHS Central Zone said it will open 60 new supportive living spaces in Olds and anticipates another 10 spaces around the zone. A new facility to open up in Red Deer next year is expected to create 84 supportive living spaces.

“While it’s true that 64 long-term beds were closed last year in Central Zone (Bashaw and Stettler), they were replaced by new facilities that provided even more supportive living spaces — 30 in Bashaw and 88 in Stettler — for a total of 118 continuing care spaces in those two communities alone,” said Kerry Bales, AHS chief zone for Central Zone, in an email.

“Overall, by the end of this fiscal year, Alberta will have created about 4,100 net new continuing care spaces in the past five years, and while this is below our target we continue to expand the array of services provided for our growing seniors population.”

He said over the past five years, AHS has maintained long-term care beds at around 14,500 provincially while increasing supportive care spaces based on the anticipated needs and choices of the local population.

“We’ve dramatically increased home care spending, added adult day program, hospice and restorative care spaces and we continue to make increases in these areas.”