The Alberta government's budget 2022 earmarks $204 million in capital funding over three years to modernize existing continuing care facilities across the province and develop new continuing care spaces for Indigenous Peoples and in priority communities. An additional 1,515 new spaces are expected to open in 2022/23.
Dr. Verna Yiu, Alberta Health Services (AHS) president and CEO, says the added funding will help modernize facilities in high-priority areas and provide care closer to home so continuing care clients can remain connected to their communities and loved ones.
"The additional funding also ensures we can free up space within acute care, easing capacity strain on the system overall," said Yiu.
The government is providing almost $3.7 billion in operating funds across the continuing care system for professional health care and support services provided in the following settings:
$1.7 billion for community care, an increase of $122 million or 7.6 per cent from 2021-22
$1.2 billion for continuing care, an increase of $16 million or 1.3 per cent from 2021-22
$750 million for home care, an increase of $81 million or 12.1 per cent from 2021-22
$204 million over three years to modernize existing continuing care facilities and create additional continuing care spaces in Alberta, primarily through the Continuing Care Capital Program.
$91 million over three years to complete the Bridgeland-Riverside Continuing Care Centre in Calgary that will accommodate about 200 residents and deliver day programs and services for Calgary-area seniors. Construction of the new centre will finish in late 2023 or early 2024.
$142 million over two years for the Gene Zwozdesky Centre in Edmonton will add 145 new spaces and renovate 205 existing spaces to accommodate 350 continuing care residents with complex needs. Construction of the main building is anticipated to be complete in late 2022, with renovation of the Angus McGugan building to follow.
While it sounds like good news for the hard-hit long term care system, critics say the announcement will further degrade quality and affordability in continuing care. Public Interest Alberta and seniors advocates from across the province say they're committed to providing an alternative roadmap for seniors and continuing care that will enhance quality and affordability in the system.
Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta, said, "With continuing care, Jason Kenney and the UCP are throwing good money after bad to further privatize the system, despite evidence that for-profit facilities degrade quality and affordability. Especially since the onset of COVID, the Canadian experience shows us privatization is not the way to ensure seniors can lead a life of health and dignity. Despite the evidence, this government is moving forward with their privatization scheme under the guise of modernization: seniors’ lives should not be the basis for profits.”
While a 2020 report by the Canadian Medical Association on Ontario’s experience showed that during the first year of COVID there were significantly worse outcomes in for-profit homes than public homes, the Alberta government named transforming the province's continuing care system as a priority. The government announced recommendations from the Facility-Based Continuing Care review in spring 2021 that will be implemented in the months and years ahead. New streamlined continuing care legislation is anticipated this spring.