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New health minister halts bed closures in Edmonton and Calgary
Published Wednesday, January 20, 2010 6:02PM MST
Alberta's new health minister has ordered planned hospital bed closures in Edmonton and Calgary be stopped while he figures out what the move would actually cost.
After Alberta Health Services announced its three-year plan to close 300 acute care beds last year, a public uproar formed outside the Alberta Hospital as health care employees rallied to protest the closures.
Gene Zwozdesky is still new to the post after he took over the health portfolio just last week. The minister now says he put his order in to stop any planned bed closures for the time being. He reports Wednesday that he'll spend the next little while crunching some numbers before making a final decision on bed closures.
"We have to settle this down, let people know we do care about what their opinions are and we do have a plan and we do have a vision," said Zwozdesky.
Earlier this week, Alberta Health Services said it would withdraw its plan to transfer 146 beds from Alberta Hospital to other facilities after a committee hired to manage the process made a list of recommendations.
The committee stated a new 150-bed facility, which will cost $43 million, will open later this year. And once the centre is fully staffed and equipped, the province will transfer the regional geriatric psychiatry program from the hospital to the new site.
Alberta Health Services is currently in the red with a $1-billion debt.
Going forward, Zwozdesky says more changes could be on the way.
"The relationship between myself, Dr. (Stephen) Duckett (CEO of Alberta Health Services), and (Alberta Health Services) board chair Ken Hughes will be tightened up quite a lot."
Zwozdesky will meet with Duckett and Hughes on Friday.
With files from Kevin Armstrong and the Canadian Press