The Alberta government plans to invest $1.7 billion in continuing care to enhance healthcare accessibility, aiming to reduce wait times for alternate levels of care patients.

Typically, around 1,500 Albertans complete their hospital treatment but remain in hospital beds awaiting transfer to a more suitable setting, like a continuing care facility or community care services. These individuals, known as alternate level of care (ALC) patients, occupy nearly 18 per cent of all acute care spaces in the province.

According to the provincial government, since December, they have successfully decreased the number of ALC patients waiting for transfer to continuing care facilities by nearly 30 per cent. Transferring these patients promptly alleviates hospital congestion, ensuring that Albertans in emergency departments awaiting in-patient beds and those awaiting surgery receive timely care.

While almost half of ALC patients are transferred to appropriate care settings outside the hospital within seven days and the majority within 25 days, some experience prolonged delays, unnecessarily prolonging their hospital stay

“We continue our work to refocus health care in Alberta and ensure Albertans can get the care they need, when and where they need it. This is not just about initial access to our healthcare system; it’s about the ability to get the correct level of care when Albertans are already within the system. We’ve made real progress in this regard, and we’re going to keep moving forward to make the changes that Albertans need, whether as patients, family or front-line staff,” stated Danielle Smith, Premier of Alberta.

Should Budget 2024 be approved, the province will fulfill its pledge to transform continuing care in Alberta by allocating $1 billion over a three-year period. Efforts to improve quality, expand choice and innovation, build workforce capacity, and increase community care would all be supported during the second year of this financing.

To increase accessibility to continuing care facilities for Albertans, including individuals who no longer need to be in a hospital but still need assistance, the province has also allotted $654 million in financing over three years for the Continuing Care Capital Program. By creating more beds and ensuring that Albertans receive the proper assistance in the correct settings, this funding will also help with efforts to shorten wait times at emergency departments.

“Our government is ensuring that Albertans are well supported in their later years and have a choice in what that looks like for each individual," added Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health. "As the demand for continuing care is expected to increase, we are making investments that will result in our continuing care system becoming more sustainable and responsive while addressing existing pressures on our acute care system."

More than 1.2 million Albertans or one in five of the province's population will be 65 years of age or older by 2046.

People are living longer lives and have more complicated demands, which means the need for continuing care will rise even more quickly. Over the next ten years, it is anticipated that this will lead to an 80 per cent increase in the demand for ongoing care, according to the provincial government.

In February, it was announced Airdrie the Community Health Centre renovations would restart this month.

The City of Airdrie statistics show that Airdrie's Urgent Care Centre sees upwards of 46,000 patients per year, reporting an average of 139 patients per day. In 2017, the operating hours were expanded to offer services at the centre 24 hours a day, seven days a week in April 2017.

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