EDMONTON – The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees was disappointed and dismayed to learn the redevelopment of Alberta Hospital Edmonton was not on the Health and Wellness Ministry’s list of major health care capital projects planned in Alberta.
“It is very disappointing once again for us not to see steps being taken to redevelop this world-class psychiatric facility at a time the government of Alberta is trying to reassure Albertans that it has a handle on the health-care needs of Albertans,” said AUPE Executive Secretary-Treasurer Bill Dechant.
Dechant noted that Alberta Health and Wellness claimed in the five-year plan it published Nov. 30 that supporting Albertans with addictions and mental health issues is a key priority, yet there is no mention in either the five-year plan or the Dec. 11 capital building announcement of the need to renovate Alberta Hospital.
“This suggests mental health services are not the priority that the government claims they are,” Dechant said. “Nothing could do more to support Albertans with mental health problems in central and northern Alberta than to redevelop this desperately needed and heavily used facility.”
In October, he added, Albertans learned about serious overcrowding at Alberta Hospital, more evidence that the aging facility is badly needed and that its redevelopment should be a priority for the government.
“Albertans, particularly residents of northern and central Alberta, should be gravely concerned by this government’s repeated refusal to live up to the commitment of the old Capital Health Region and truly make mental health services a priority by doing everything it can to maintain Alberta Hospital as the world class facility it is today.”
Dechant emphasized that a $200-million redevelopment was approved and on the books in August 2009, and that significant site development work had been completed, when Alberta Health Services made its unexpected and controversial decision that same month to cancel the upgrades.
In the face of massive public protests, the government partly reversed that unpopular decision, but it has so far not restored funding for the desperately needed redevelopment.
In its announcement this week, the government said it would spend $40.3 million to develop 100 detoxification and residential treatment beds for patients with addictions or mental illness.
“These kinds of facilities are needed too, but they cannot replace a dedicated psychiatric hospital like Alberta Hospital, and that is why we are so dismayed to find AHE was not on the list of new health care capital projects,” Dechant said.
Dechant noted that:
- Alberta Hospital supports every community in Alberta, keeping both patients and communities safe.
- Alberta Hospital helps keep hospital Emergency Wards open by preventing a buildup of psychiatric cases in ERs throughout Alberta.
- The “community care” approach advocated by Alberta Health Services in August 2009 has a history of creating a “revolving door” phenomenon in which patients have to be regularly readmitted to psychiatric facilities or end up on the streets, contributing to crime, poverty and ill health.
- Redeveloping Alberta Hospital will save taxpayers money by keeping those living with mental illness healthy.
“The need to redevelop Alberta Hospital is pressing and urgent. There is no excuse for the government of Alberta not to move ahead with this important work,” Dechant concluded.
For more information, contact:
Bill Dechant, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, AUPE, 780-930-3302 or 780-232-3870 (cellular phone)
David Climenhaga, Communications Director, AUPE, 780-930-3311 or 780-717-2943 (cellular phone)
Tyler Bedford, Communications Officer, AUPE, 780-930-3406 (On the weekend, please leave a message)