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Non-profit taken off support agency roster after Alberta stroke patient sent to motel

Alberta's health minister says a non-profit agency that shipped a stroke patient to a motel for his long-term recovery will be taken off a roster of agencies offered to provide such support.
Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange makes a health-care announcement in Calgary on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. LaGrange says a non-profit that shipped a stroke patient to a motel for his long-term recovery will be taken off a roster of agencies that provide non-medical care in the community. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

Alberta's health minister says a non-profit agency that shipped a stroke patient to a motel for his long-term recovery will be taken off a roster of agencies offered to provide such support.

Adriana LaGrange said Thursday she doesn't know who compiled the list or who was responsible for it when Blair Canniff, 62, was discharged from an Edmonton hospital and taken to a Travelodge south of the city. 

Canniff, who is paralyzed on his left side, told CBC he had expected to be taken to a long-term care facility and thought it was a joke when his taxi pulled up to the motel. 

His wife told CBC the room could not accommodate his wheelchair, he was fed fast food and his hygiene wasn't looked after. 

"This is a terrible situation that has come to light. I am sorry that the individual at the centre of this situation feels that the service that he was going to get was misrepresented to him and his family," LaGrange told a news conference in Edmonton.

"We can only acknowledge that there is an issue here that needs to be addressed. We've now been able to determine what that issue is and we are going to go forward making sure that we correct what that issue is."

Canniff said the agency providing his care was Contentment Social Services, which did not immediately respond to a list of emailed questions from The Canadian Press. 

LaGrange said she understands the agency was to provide "non-medical housing" and that neither she nor Jason Nixon, the minister for seniors, community and social services, had been familiar with it. 

"We've now identified a problem that probably has existed for quite some time," said LaGrange, adding that she and Nixon would review all providers on the list. 

"We're all on it and we're going to make sure that we clear this up," she said. 

The Opposition NDP pounded away on the issue during question period, demanding Premier Danielle Smith’s government apologize to Canniff and detail how many other people are getting post-hospital care in motel rooms.

“This government’s endless attempts to duck responsibility is embarrassing to watch,” NDP member Irfan Sabir told the house.

“This government owes it to Albertans to get to the bottom of this and ensure that no one is subjected to this kind of treatment in Alberta health care.

“Albertans deserve to know how far this government’s motel-medicine model has reached.”

Smith replied that her government is dealing with hundreds of patients being discharged from hospitals every day.

She said the goal is to find them appropriate accommodations while freeing up limited acute-care hospital beds.

“Those beds are highly valued. We cannot be having (emergency or time-sensitive) treatments put off because we don’t have the right patient in the right place," Smith said.

Also Thursday, the United Conservative government updated its plans to break up Alberta Health Services — the front-line health-care provider — into four separate delivery organizations centred on acute care, primary care, continuing care and mental health and addictions. 

It said the rollout of the new continuing care piece would be delayed from the spring until the fall to better align with the launch of the acute and primary care organizations. 

LaGrange also announced that Chelsae Petrovic, the legislature member for Livingstone-Macleod, would take on the role of parliamentary secretary for health workforce engagement. 

Petrovic, a licensed practical nurse with 13 years' experience, was criticized last year when comments she made about people with heart ailments came to light. 

"Maybe the reason you had a heart attack was because you haven't taken care of yourself," Petrovic, then a UCP candidate, told a February episode of "The Canadian Story" podcast.

"You're extremely overweight, you haven't managed your congestive heart failure, you haven't managed your diabetes and there's no personal accountability. But they come into the hospital and all of a sudden it's everyone else's problem but their own."

Petrovic later said the remarks were taken out of context and that she could have chosen better language — a statement she said Thursday she stands behind. 

"My focus right now is to really create a positive relationship with our front-line staff and our front-line workers," she said. 

In a news release, NDP health critic Luanne Metz called Petrovic's appointment "incredibly poor judgment." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2024. 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press