‘It is wrong though, if an organization is selling services to vulnerable Albertans and not providing services to those individuals’

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The Alberta government is launching multiple investigations into a non-profit organization that dispatched patients to hotels for post-hospital recovery while also looking to establish licensing and accreditation procedures for similar groups.

It all stems from a CBC News report two weekends ago that 62-year-old Blair Canniff had been moved to a Travelodge motel in Leduc but his room was unsuitable for the wheelchair he relies on and that his hygiene was not being cared for.

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Canniff told the public broadcaster he was not given a choice of where to go and that non-profit group Contentment Social Services was supposed to be running the program out of the motels.

On Monday, Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon said he triggered four investigations into what happened and that his ministry would institute licence and accreditation requirements, similar to those applied to addictions treatment spaces.

“Individuals who are paying their support money such as AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) to this organization, and then ultimately that money does not appear to be used for what it was advertised to be used for,” he said.

“It is wrong though, if an organization is selling services to vulnerable Albertans and not providing services to those individuals.”

He added that as of last Thursday, Contentment had a group of 27 individuals — the majority of whom were on some form of government assistance — at another Leduc hotel who could have been sent to a homeless shelter due to unpaid hotel bills until the province stepped up to cover that cost.

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Those individuals had been living in apartments and 25 of them are now returning to that building, along with their belongings, after the province reached an agreement with the private landlord.

Nixon outlined the four investigations he said will be underway shortly, though no timeline is yet available for their completion or when they will be made public:

  • By his ministry’s income support division regarding how Contentment used its money and how it led to unpaid hotel bills
  • By the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee
  • By Service Alberta to look into potential consumer protection and residential tenancy issues
  • An investigation by an unspecified agency into elder abuse and elder neglect

Nixon noted there was no reports of physical abuse but that “neglect is a type of elder abuse and that needs to be looked at, not by minister, but by people that know.”

Postmedia did not receive a response by press time from Contentment for a request for comment.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, who initially said proper procedures had been followed, said Monday that she’s instructed Alberta Health Services not to interact with Contentment who does not have a contract with the government.

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“This is just a terrible situation that’s occurred,” she said, adding she and Nixon will work together or a vetting process for providers that she said will give reassurance to Albertans.

“If we as government are saying that this (organization) is an option that we’re putting before Albertans as they’re discharged, then we want to make sure that they’re vetted and going through the proper processes.”

Notley demands independent inquiry

Opposition leader Rachel Notley called on the government to reveal how many other patients have dealt with, or are dealing with, similar situations and for the results of any investigation to be made public.

“A bunch of trumped-up internal investigations is not going to solve the problem,” she said.

“This is the natural consequence when you contract out delivery, you become less aware of what is going on”

She demanded an independent inquiry into the situation as well as government commitment for the practice of what she’s referred to as “motel medicine” to cease.

“It has to be an independent body. It has to be made public,” she said of the investigations.

“It cannot be left to an internal investigation given the level of incompetence we have already seen.”

— with files from the Canadian Press

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mblack@postmedia.com

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