$10M continuing care facility finally under construction in Lethbridge

The 102-unit West Lethbridge facility was announced in March 2019 by Sarah Hoffman, who was then the NDP health minister.

Last month, the Alberta government announced that construction was underway for a new continuing care centre in West Lethbridge.

The announcement mentioned that “the Alberta government contributed $10 million towards the $26-million Covenant Care project”.

What it didn’t mention, however, is that the 102-unit project was originally announced in March 2019 by Sarah Hoffman, who was then the NDP’s health minister.

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It was the NDP government who committed that $10 million towards the project, as per a 2018 funding agreement with Alberta Health. But the way the new announcement was worded, it could leave the reader with the impression that the UCP government had initiated and funded this project.

So, this was functionally an announcement for a ground-breaking, but nowhere did it say that it was actually a groundbreaking.

The facility is slated to open in the Garry Station neighbourhood during the spring of 2022.

On a related note, the NDP’s March 2019 announcement indicated that the project was part of a larger initiative to spend $221 million (p. 64) on increasing continuing care capacity in the province.

2018–2019$49 million
2019–2020$47 million
2020–2021$51 million
2021–2022$42 million
2022–2023$32 million
Total$221 million

Now compare it to the UCP plan for capital funding (p. 135) for continuing care:

2018–2019$49 million$23 million
2019–2020$47 million$10 million
2020–2021$51 million$92 million
2021–2022$42 million$40 million
2022–2023$32 million$32 million
Total$221 million$197 million

According to the 2020–2021 government estimates report (p. 120), only $23 million was spent on continuing care capital projects in 2018–2019, the NDP’s last year in office. It also showed a forecast of $10 million for 2019–2020 in continuing care capital funding.

It looks like the UCP are trying to make up for the drop in funding in those two years by promising to spend an extra $41 million this year than the NDP had originally planned.

Or at least they were as of 16 March, before the pandemic hit.

The November fiscal update reported (p. 9) that “slower project progress” has led the government to reprofile capital spending in various areas, including “$51 million for continuing care beds”.

Assuming I’m reading that correctly, this would bring the $92 million promised in continuing care capital funding for this year to only $41 million.

However, the update also said that this adjustment has “reprofiled continuing care . . . grants to future years” (p. 6).

We’ll need to wait until a future update to see exactly how much ends up spent on capital funding for continuing care beds this year and how much of it actually is transferred to next year and 2022–2023.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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