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Second Alberta family comes forward after patient discharged from hospital to hotel

Some patients discharged from hospital in Edmonton have been sent to stay at the Park Inn in Leduc, Alta. (Kory Siegers/CBC - image credit)
Some patients discharged from hospital in Edmonton have been sent to stay at the Park Inn in Leduc, Alta. (Kory Siegers/CBC - image credit)

A second Edmonton family is speaking out after a loved one was moved into not one but two different hotels after being discharged from hospital.

Jenalee Green said she was shocked when she learned her father, Glen, who had been a patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, had been taken to a Travelodge in Leduc on March 1. Glen Green, who has high care needs, had bounced between the Royal Alexandra and various shelters.

In Alberta, patients who no longer need hospital care and are being discharged are often given a list of agencies that can provide housing.

Jenalee Green said one of the agencies her family was referred to was Contentment Social Services, which accepted her father for its "specialized housing program."

A letter dated Feb. 21 and provided to Jenalee Green on letterhead from Contentment Social Services Foundation Inc. included an address for her father's care, but it wasn't transparent that the site was a Travelodge in Leduc.

Jenalee Green's father was taken to stay in two hotels after he was discharged from the Royal Alex Hospital.
Jenalee Green's father was taken to stay in two hotels after he was discharged from the Royal Alex Hospital.

Jenalee Green's father was taken to stay in two hotels after he was discharged from the Royal Alexander Hospital in Edmonton. (Samuel Martin/CBC)

After staying there for a few days, Glen Green was moved to a second hotel in Leduc, the Park Inn. Jenalee Green said she wasn't informed when this move happened and only learned about it from her father, when he called her.

"How did this place come to be? Who vetted it?" Jenalee Green told CBC News in an interview Thursday.

"There's so many people that need placement. Agencies are popping up — some of them are good, some of them are bad — but they should be checked out."

Jenalee Green said her father gets some visits from health-care workers at the Park Inn, but is mainly left on his own.

"He just sits in there and watches TV and looks at the door," she said.

She said it's unclear how long her father will be at the hotel.

"We're trying to get him out, but wait lists are long," she said. "It's hard."

The story mirrors the experience of Blair Canniff, whose story CBC News detailed last week.

Blair Canniff has been recovering from a stroke, uses a wheelchair and is paralyzed on his left side.
Blair Canniff has been recovering from a stroke, uses a wheelchair and is paralyzed on his left side.

Blair Canniff has been recovering from a stroke, uses a wheelchair and is paralyzed on his left side. (CBC)

Canniff is recovering from a stroke, is paralyzed on his left side and uses a wheelchair.

Like Glen Green, he had been a patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Canniff said he had been expecting to move into a care home when he was taken to a Travelodge in Leduc by Contentment Social Services, and that he had not been given a list of options.

His family said they were concerned about his mobility, his ability to care for himself and said he had been given fast food to eat.

After a week at the Travelodge, Canniff said he was taken back to the Royal Alexandra Hospital without explanation and has since been re-admitted.

Political fallout

Alberta politicians have been peppered with questions since CBC News broke Canniff's story.

At a press conference about Alberta's health-care system on Thursday, CBC News asked Alberta Health Services CEO Athana Mentzelopoulos whether Contentment Social Services and its facilities had been vetted by the health authority.

"I don't know what you mean by vetted," Mentzelopoulos said.

Athana Mentzelopoulos (in green) is the CEO of Alberta Health Services.
Athana Mentzelopoulos (in green) is the CEO of Alberta Health Services.

Athana Mentzelopoulos, right, is the CEO of Alberta Health Services. (Maxime Lamache/CBC)

She said care teams present patients with housing options.

"Ultimately, the individual has a conversation with the provider and looks at that themselves and makes their own decision," Mentzelopoulos said.

Canniff told CBC News that he had not been given any other options. Jenalee Green said her father's referral had been sent to two agencies but that Contentment Social Services was the only one that accepted him.

At the press conference, CBC News asked health officials whether Contentment Social Services would remain on the list of options presented to patients.

"They will be removed off the list," said Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange. "In fact, we will be reviewing the whole list that currently exists out there."

Social services agency responds

Norton Smith, the president of Contentment Social Services, declined an on-camera interview, but spoke with CBC News over the phone on Thursday and defended the organization's actions.

He said hearing that his agency had been removed from the province's list of options "doesn't make me feel good."

Smith said the agency had been planning to purchase a hotel and convert it into a care facility. However, he said the deal fell through.

"We are not in the habit of putting clients in motels," Smith said. "It was a temporary measure. It was not something that we are trying to do on a permanent basis."

When asked why it made sense to bring vulnerable patients into spaces that are set up as hotel rooms, Smith said the hospital system is overburdened.

"When a request comes in, and [it's] an urgent request because of the need for beds at the hospital … we do our best to accommodate."

Smith also defended the care being provided to patients.

"As far as we know, and what we have been experiencing, is that every person that we take care of, their loved ones are more than happy," he said. "We provide very good care to our clients."

Hotel staff not equipped

Yudhvir Prihar, one of the owners of the Park Inn, told CBC News Thursday that Contentment Social Services rented out about 30 rooms at the hotel. Prihar said he was told they were for people who required assisted living.

Prihar said hotel staff were unprepared for the level of care the patients needed.

"We're in the business of renting rooms," said Prihar, who explained that his understanding was that Contentment Social Services would come into the hotel to work with patients.

"We start learning that their staff is not there all the time, or they're absent. Patients are coming to the front desk to ask for things. Our staff is not really equipped to help them out."

He also said the hotel has not been paid for the room rentals.

"Our deal was [Contentment Social Services] would give us $1,200 [for] each room for a month and then from there on, if they still need it, they would give us the next month's rent," he said.

"They were going to pay us the rent within 10 days from the time [the patients] moved in, and they still haven't."

There was no immediate response from Smith about the unpaid bills.

On Friday morning, at an unrelated news conference in Calgary, Premier Danielle Smith said the province stepped in to pay the $25,000 hotel bill.

Doctor speaks out

Dr. Parker Vandermeer is a physician who works with patients who struggle with substance abuse, like many of the patients moved into the hotels, though he said he is not responsible for discharging them.

Dr. Parker Vandermeer is a physician at the Royal Alex Hospital.
Dr. Parker Vandermeer is a physician at the Royal Alex Hospital.

Dr. Parker Vandermeer, a physician at the Royal Alex Hospital, said there were many red flags with Contentment Social Services. (Samuel Martin/CBC)

He said there were many red flags with Contentment Social Services. Vandermeer said he wasn't able to reach them to pass on information about patient prescriptions, and said the plans for the transport of patients kept changing.

Vandermeer said there should have been more checks and balances from AHS.

"If there was any due diligence, it was inadequate," he said. He emphasized that AHS's responsibility to care for a patient does not end after the patient leaves the premises.

"At the bare minimum, we should know where they're going and have confidence in the discharge plan that it will sufficiently provide for their needs," he said.

"As part of that discharge, I think ensuring that we are sending people off to somewhere [where] they're going to be successful is part of that umbrella of that in-patient care… Those decisions are still being made when they're in AHS facilities. They're still under the roof. They're still under the care of a medical team."

Vandermeer said the incidents with patients being moved to hotels has given him pause.

"It's definitely tarnished that trust [with AHS]," he said.

Calls for more oversight

University of Calgary health law professor Lorian Hardcastle said ultimately the buck stops with the government.

"If patients are being sent to services that are potentially unsafe, we need to be looking at whether or not [the government] should be taking a stronger regulatory role," she said.

Lorian Hardcastle is a health law professor at the University of Calgary.
Lorian Hardcastle is a health law professor at the University of Calgary.

Lorian Hardcastle, a health law professor at the University of Calgary, said it is unfair for AHS to point the finger at a patient for choosing a particular option. (James Young/CBC)

Hardcastle questions if Alberta Health should be requiring more from these organizations or giving the government more power to investigate when situations like this arise.

She also wonders if the government should consider licensing these agencies. The province said Contentment Social Services was not accredited.

Hardcastle said it is unfair for AHS to point the finger at a patient for choosing a particular option.

"I don't think that patients can be expected to vet these options themselves," she said.

"We simply can't expect sick people being discharged from hospitals to understand the complex web of services available in the community."