Transfer of patients to 'community-based spaces' a privatization scheme, critics say.
Edmonton (23 Sept. 2009) - Alberta will move hundreds of hospital patients to community-based spaces, run mainly by private operators, over the next three years.
Alberta Health Services (AHS), the province's health authority, announced this week that 350 hospital beds in Calgary and Edmonton will be closed and patients moved to a network of 775 community-based spaces.
In Edmonton, 160 beds will close and in Calgary 190. Another 246 beds will be closed over the next three years at the Alberta Hospital, the psychiatric facility in Edmonton.
More than 100 patients – mostly elderly people with dementia or mental illnesses – will be moved to 150 beds set aside at Villa Caritas, the private Covenant Health facility scheduled to open next year in west Edmonton.
AHS says its plans will save the province an estimated $51.5 million by 2012. All hospital beds will be staffed until the community spaces are created.
Stephen Duckett, AHS president and CEO, refused to discuss layoffs caused by the changes. "We are not going to consider layoffs until we work through the vacancy management program and the early retirement programs which are being negotiated with our unions," he said.
Critics say the scope of the closures is equivalent to closing one of the province's major hospitals.
David Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare, called the plan a "shell game."
"Clearly this is an attempt to hijack public health care by moving funds and beds out of hospitals and over to private contractors across the province," he said.
There is nothing wrong with moving people who shouldn't be in a hospital bed but they should be placed in publicly-funded long-term care facilities instead, Eggen said.
The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) has already rejected a "Voluntary Exit Program" for employees that AHS has announced.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
'Voluntary Exit Program' an insult, says HSAA