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Alberta premier says province paid $25K hotel bill from social services provider

CALGARY — Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says the province has stepped in to pay an outstanding $25,000 bill to a hotel where a social services agency dispatched patients in post-hospital recovery.

And she says her government is trying to find appropriate housing for 39 clients of Contentment Social Services. 

“What we discovered was substandard. There’s no two ways about it,” Smith told an unrelated news conference on Friday. 

CBC has reported a stroke patient was recently discharged from the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton and taken to a Travelodge south of the city that couldn’t accommodate his wheelchair and where he was fed fast food and no one properly cared for his hygiene. 

Another family has since come forward to CBC saying their loved one was sent to another hotel in Leduc, the Park Inn, after a stay in the same hospital. 

An owner of that hotel told CBC that Contentment Social Services rented 30 rooms, hadn’t paid its bills and didn’t have people regularly caring for those guests. 

Smith said Seniors and Community and Social Services staff were on-site Thursday to sort things out. 

“We paid the $25,000 unpaid bill on a credit card to make sure no one was evicted and we’re now going to be going through the process of finding appropriate support facilities,” said Smith. 

“No one is going to be pushed out into a shelter. 

“No one is going to be to be pushed out of a hotel without somewhere to go. I can tell you, if (Seniors and Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon) hadn’t been on site yesterday and hadn’t intervened that way, then I shudder to think what would have happened to those poor, poor folks.”

Smith said she understands Contentment Social Services, a non-profit housing provider, used to offer rental accommodations but turned to hotel rooms because of pest management problems and other issues. 

Norton Smith, president of Contentment, told CBC hotel rooms were a temporary measure in an overburdened system. 

“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,” he said.

He also told CBC patients are being well looked after. 

“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.” 

On Thursday, Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said Contentment would be struck from a roster of support agencies offered to patients upon discharge from hospital. 

The Opposition NDP said in a release Friday that the United Conservative Party government needs to take more accountability. 

“Albertans have been subjected to the most ridiculous and embarrassing spectacle of a health minister refusing to take responsibility for the complete failures resulting in the motel-medicine crisis,” said continuing care critic Lori Sigurdson.

“When asked if anyone is checking to see if the places patients are being discharged to are acceptable, (LaGrange) didn’t know. 

“When asked who made the list of agencies that included this particular social services provider, she didn’t know. 

“When asked who sets the standards when it comes to discharge, she didn’t know.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2024.  

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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