EDMONTON — Just days before the grand ribbon-cutting of a new Edmonton psychiatric ward, a patient hanged himself on a coat hook, Alberta’s opposition NDP revealed Tuesday.
Party Leader Brian Mason said given that the mandate of the new Villa Caritas facility changed halfway through construction, the site may not meet safeguards to house the mentally ill.
He said more patients may be at risk.
“This suicide really underscores what we’ve been saying,” Mason told reporters.
“The Villa Caritas is designed not as a psychiatric unit, but as long-term care for seniors. Even though they put some money into upgrading it, it’s clear it’s not necessarily a safe place for psychiatric patients.”
They are still trying to get details on what happened, but said the victim was an elderly man, Mason said.
He also said it was disgraceful for the government to go ahead with the opening ceremonies on Monday, attended by Premier Ed Stelmach, given the death just days earlier.
“All of the wonderful words and patting each other on the back, the self-congratulatory tone — all of it was extremely inappropriate,” he said.
Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky acknowledged the suicide occurred, but said based on his information, Villa Caritas is safe.
Villa Caritas is a 150-bed facility that became a controversial political football for a government desperate to find more long-term care beds to free up critical space in emergency wards.
The facility was originally supposed to be a long-term care facility. When the government closed psychiatric care beds at nearby Alberta Hospital, it converted the Villa Caritas beds into geriatric mental health beds.