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Alberta non-profit housing patients in hotel rooms had $25K unpaid bill, premier says

Government staff are working to find appropriate facilities for 39 people under the care of Contentment Social Services, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Friday.  (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Government staff are working to find appropriate facilities for 39 people under the care of Contentment Social Services, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Friday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Premier Danielle Smith says a non-profit that placed Albertans in hotel rooms after they were discharged from hospital put them in danger of eviction with a $25,000 unpaid hotel bill, and the government had to step in to pay.

Government staff are working to find appropriate facilities for 39 people under the care of Contentment Social Services, the premier said Friday.

Smith said the organization is "not up to the task" for being able to care for vulnerable patients.

Jason Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services, as well as ministry staff, have been present at one of the Leduc hotels where the non-profit has been housing people, Smith said, and the outstanding bill was put on a credit card.

"If the minister hadn't been on site yesterday, and hadn't intervened that way, I shudder to think what would have happened to those poor folks," Smith said at an unrelated news conference in Calgary Friday.

CBC News reported last week that a man who spent about six months in hospital after a stroke was discharged and moved to a Travelodge in Leduc, just south of Edmonton. The program was run by Contentment Social Services.

Blair Canniff, 62, was told that he would be moving to a long-term care facility and was not given any other options. He is paralyzed on his left side and has high care needs, and he said the hotel room wasn't properly equipped for his accessibility needs.

Canniff's family told CBC News that they had been worried about his mobility issues and his ability to care for himself, and said he had been given fast food to eat.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said Thursday that Contentment Social Services will be removed from the list of housing providers that health workers can present to hospital patients when they're being discharged, and need to find additional care in the community.

Smith said Friday her understanding is that Contentment Social Services used to run rental housing, but issues led them to move their clients to hotel rooms.

She said the government plans to change its approach to ensure organizations on the list of care providers after hospital discharge have their accreditation checked.

"There's still some work we need to do to understand why they were recommended in the first place," she said.