On average, there are about 1,500 Albertans who have finished their required hospital care and are waiting in hospital beds until they can be moved to a more appropriate setting, such as a continuing care space or community care services. This represents almost 18 per cent of all acute care spaces in the province, and Albertans in these situations are known as alternate level of care (ALC) patients. Since December, Alberta’s government has been able to reduce the number of ALC patients specifically waiting for transfer to a continuing care facility by almost 30 per cent.

Moving these patients sooner frees up space in hospitals and helps ensure that Albertans waiting in emergency departments for in-patient beds and those waiting for surgery can get the care they need. Almost half of ALC patients are transferred to more appropriate care settings outside the hospital within seven days and the majority are transferred within 25 days. However, there are many patients who are experiencing delays and staying in hospitals much longer than required.

“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 health care 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.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

Alberta’s government is committed to improving access to the province’s publicly funded health care system. If passed, Budget 2024 honours the province’s commitment of $1 billion over three years to transform continuing care in Alberta. The second year of this funding would continue to support efforts related to increasing care in the community, enhancing workforce capacity, improving quality, and increasing choice and innovation.

In addition, the province has allocated $654 million in funding over three years for the Continuing Care Capital Program to improve access to continuing care spaces for Albertans, including those who no longer need to stay at a hospital but require further support. This funding will also support efforts to reduce emergency department wait times by freeing up more beds and making sure Albertans are getting the right supports in the appropriate setting. Alberta’s government is creating additional spaces in priority communities, including delivering culturally appropriate care for Indigenous residents on and off reserves and Metis Settlements.

“Our government is ensuring that Albertans are well supported in their later years and have choice in what that looks like for each individual. 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."

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

Alberta’s government continues its efforts to refocus Alberta’s health care system. As part of this refocusing, a new continuing care organization will be created and tasked with improving access to continuing care services, both in the home or in a facility. This includes working to modernize existing continuing care homes and seniors lodges, establish innovative small continuing care homes and collaborate with local organizations to expand non-medical supports and home care.

“Albertans deserve access to community and continuing care services that meet their needs. It is our key priority to make sure that seniors and others requiring continuing and community care can age and live with dignity, respect and have access to the best care possible. Seniors Community and Social Services is working closely with the health care system and our community partners to ensure Albertans are connected with services they need in timely manner, and if in acute care, return home or to appropriate care settings in their communities.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services

“The Alberta Continuing Care Association is thrilled and proud to be a partner in this transformative investment in continuing care. The new funding and strategic leadership will significantly improve the well-being of individuals needing support throughout their lives. These strategies will tackle system challenges such as wait times, length of stay in acute care units, and enhancing community-based services.”

Feisal Keshavjee, chair, Alberta Continuing Care Association

To address ALC patient placements, Alberta Health; Seniors, Community and Social Services; and Mental Health and Addiction, together with Alberta Health Services, are working to address this challenge. Together, they are working to ensure patients get the care they need while keeping the hospital system working as efficiently as possible.

Work by these departments includes:

  • Tactical teams, including members from each department, that are focused on removing barriers and providing supports for patients facing specific personal challenges obtaining care in an appropriate setting.
  • A Specialized Patient Flow Improvement Team that is reviewing hospital patient flow and processes from hospital admission to discharge to find improvements.
  • Home care providers that collaborate to get patients back to their homes sooner by customizing services and supports to safely meet patient needs for as long as possible.

At the same, time, temporary continuing care spaces are being created for patients awaiting an assessment and transfer to continuing care. These new spaces will free up hospital beds and reduce emergency room and surgery wait times. An additional 150 temporary spaces have been created in the province over the past five months and by early 2025, a total of 1,050 additional spaces will be operational.

Budget 2024 is a responsible plan to strengthen health care and education, build safe and supportive communities, manage the province’s resources wisely and promote job creation to continue to build Alberta’s competitive advantage.

Quick facts

  • By 2046, one in five Albertans will be 65 years of age or older, making up more than 1.2 million of the total population.
  • The demand for continuing care will increase even faster due to people living longer and with more complex needs. This will result in an 80 per cent projected increase in demand for continuing care over the next 10 years.
  • If passed, Budget 2024 investments in continuing care that would help ALC patients include:
    • $121.5 million in 2024-25 as part of a total $654 million over three years for the Continuing Care Capital Program, which will add or replace more than 1,600 continuing care spaces.
    • $57.1 million in 2024-25 as part of a total $103 million over three years to support the Bethany Continuing Care Centre Project in Calgary.
    • $63 million in 2024-25 as part of a total $113 million over three years to fund the Good Samaritan Society Continuing Care Project in Edmonton.
    • $45 million in 2024-25 as part of a total $69 million over three years for the Gene Zwozdesky Centre at Norwood in Edmonton.
    • A further $139 million is budgeted for the anticipated Aging with Dignity federal bilateral agreement, which will go towards initiatives such as integrating home and community care with primary health care, enhancing home and community care capacity as well as providing caregiver supports, and enhancing palliative and end-of-life care.
  • Continuing Care Transformation also includes new regulations, updated standards and improved licensing processes to support the Continuing Care Act, which comes into effect on April 1.
  • The Continuing Care Act establishes clear and consistent government authority and oversight of continuing care in Alberta, which will enable a responsive approach to addressing the changing needs and expectations of Albertans.

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