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Hinton senior care not reflected in AHS review

Masha Scheele

Hinton’s lack of availability of long term care (LTC) beds doesn’t reflect the recently released Alberta Health Services review, which states there is a potential surplus of acute and LTC beds.

According to the review there is also a shortage of Designated Supported Living (DSL) units to meet the current patient need across Alberta.

While this may be true in other parts of Alberta, Kristen Chambers, CAO of the Evergreens Foundation, believes Hinton is managing their DSL units. The Hinton Continuing Care Centre confirmed that they do not have any LTC beds.

Throughout the community, DSL levels one, two, three, and four are available. If an individual in Hinton does require LTC or specialty levels of care, AHS works closely with the patient and their family to provide the right level of care in Hinton or a facility that meets their needs, as close to home as possible, wrote Amy Crofts, senior communications advisor of the AHS North zone, to the Voice in the fall of 2019.

Several levels of continuing care in Alberta include home care, supportive living, designated supportive living (Pine Valley Lodge), and long term care.

When the continuing care centre in Hinton was first built in 2002, it included long term care beds, according to Public Interest Canada.

Those beds were downgraded to supported living units by the former Progressive Conservative government in 2005, leaving Hinton without LTC ever since.

The NDP government made an election promise in 2015 to bring LTC beds to Hinton and designated beds as LTC or DSL level 5 when they bought the facility from the Good Samaritan’s in 2017.

After a review of the facility, Hinton did not receive those promised LTC beds and the level of care remained at level 4.

The recent AHS review noted that an AHS study of LTC patients between April 2014 and October 2017 found only 30 per cent of patients assessed for placement into Continuing Care were assessed as needing LTC, but that 62 per cent of assessed patients were placed into LTC. 

The Hinton Continuing Care Centre currently offers 52 supportive living spaces, including 37 level 4 and 15 level 4-dementia-care spaces. 

These are spaces meant for seniors with complex medical needs and high levels of personal care that require 24-hour support by nurses.

Although Hinton’s current need appears manageable with the current number of spaces, the new Pine Valley Lodge will give AHS the opportunity to partner for level 4 or LTC to meet future possible needs, Chambers explained.

The Evergreens Foundation has partnerships for DSL spaces with AHS in Jasper, Grande Cache and Edson but not in Hinton at this time.

Seniors are placed in a care facility based on an assessment to determine the appropriate care level.

Crofts added that AHS is constantly monitoring the healthcare needs of Hinton, as it does for all communities across Alberta, and that continuing care needs in Hinton are currently being met by home care and supportive living spaces.

MLA Martin Long added that the direction of the review in addressing the general trends will be done on a selective basis.

“Regarding a lack of LTC, I look forward to Minister Shandro announcing more details on the updated The Affordable Supportive Living Initiative (ASLI) program. The aim of this program is to work with all providers to quickly and cost-effectively increase the number of beds available, across the province,” said Long.