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Social agency that moved patient to motel appeals for help; Alberta removes it from ‘list’

Contentment Social Services, the organization that took a stroke patient from an Edmonton hospital to a Leduc motel, told Global News it’s trying to provide home care services to people who need help and that it’s barely getting by financially.

Questions arose around the non-profit social agency after Blair Canniff, 62, who was a patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for about six months, was discharged and then moved to a Travelodge motel.

Canniff was in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke. His wife said he was told by a social worker in early March that he was being moved to different lodging but was surprised to learn it was a motel room that was not set up for someone in a wheelchair.

“He called me to help,” Canniff’s wife, Myna Manniapik, said. “He was in the bathroom … and had been sitting there for some time. He said he kept trying to call the nurses and they never came.

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“He was in a lot of pain, as well as very frustrated.”

On Thursday, Alberta’s health minister said Contentment Social Services will be taken off a list of agencies that offer support to people after they’re discharged from hospital.

“I don’t know who compiled the list but I can tell you who’s going to review it and who’s going to make sure that from now on that those who are on the list are actually vetted by us,” Adriana LaGrange said.

The health ministry will work with the ministry of seniors, community and social services as well as Alberta Health Services to review the list of support organizations shared with patients when they’re being discharged from the health system, she said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta UCP ‘digging into’ how stroke patient was taken to motel'

Alberta UCP ‘digging into’ how stroke patient was taken to motel

“This case is very concerning and I don’t want to diminish that,” LaGrange said. “I do feel for the individual if he felt he was going to a different level of care than he actually was getting. This was obviously listed as non-medical care housing, and my understanding is that was the assessment given to the individual.”

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An acceptance letter obtained by the NDP from Contentment Social Services said the agency offers “daily non-medical care based on assessed needs,” allowing clients to remain housed. The letter states the patient would be taken to an address in Leduc to a “bachelor style suite” accommodation. Services provided would include personal care, homemaking, meal assistance, medication assistance, laundry assistance and medical appointment follow up. A security deposit of $1,600 and one-month’s rent was required.

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“I find it totally unacceptable that someone would, an agency would, put themselves out there to an individual to provide them a service and not tell them where they’re going to be housed,” LaGrange said.

She pointed out there are more than 500 successful discharges per day in Alberta.

Click to play video: 'Leduc hotel rooms being used for hospital patients'

Leduc hotel rooms being used for hospital patients

Jason Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services, said this incident has prompted short-term and long-term action.

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He said his department is working with health and AHS to look at the community providers being presented to people leaving the health system. Nixon said they’ll also look at discharge policies and if additional oversight is needed in that transition out of hospital and of the agencies that provide housing options.

In the short term, “we’ve had officials dispatched to look at the current provider that’s in the news, to make sure that everybody that’s associated with us is safe, being cared for.”

He said the Office of the Public Guardian found one person in that position and reported “that person indicated they feel very safe and well kept care of,” Nixon said.

“We’ll be watching particularly as these individuals are transferred from space to space to be able to make sure they’ve been given a proper list of their options and that they’re in safe places that will care for their needs.”

The NDP has asked the Health Quality Council of Alberta to look into this case.

Click to play video: 'Privatizing Alberta’s continuing care a concern with new plan'

Privatizing Alberta’s continuing care a concern with new plan

In a phone conversation with Global News, a man who identified himself as an owner of Contentment Social Services said for the last three or four years, the group has been offering home care services in Leduc for people with limited housing options. Contentment Social Services had been renting apartments for clients but encountered problems, he said. Rents have risen and they faced pest-control problems. The agency was hoping to buy a motel but negotiations recently fell through and the organization says it has been asked to vacate the premises.

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The man said Contentment Social Services operates on money paid by clients along with any donations from churches or community groups. He stressed it’s a good company just trying to support people who might otherwise end up on the streets. It’s now appealing for funding from “anyone willing to help.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta to use shuttles, taxis to transport some patients in effort to improve EMS'

Alberta to use shuttles, taxis to transport some patients in effort to improve EMS

Athana Mentzelopoulos, CEO of AHS, explained Thursday how the discharge process typically works.

“The work that is done by social workers follows the medical diagnosis,” she said. “There is a diagnosis made that’s associated with discharge that helps to identify what, if any, ongoing supports might be required.

“There can be different levels of care attached to that.

“For individuals who are assessed, from a medical point of view, that they’re able to take care of themselves and make their own decisions, we try to support that with options and we try to make sure information is presented.”

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However, Mentzelopoulos said AHS doesn’t “endorse” support services, it finds out what’s available for patients.

“We need to make sure there’s enough attention paid to the quality of providers, but I would take this opportunity to say that — having actually been able to look at the details and speak to some of the folks involved — they bring an incredible level of compassion and commitment to their jobs.”

She also said the home care contract is made between AHS and the individual and is not done through the housing provider.

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In an email, AHS added that it provides home care services to some people who are clients of Contentment Social Services, but that that arrangement is with the individuals, not the agency. AHS said it does not have any contact with the organization.

“I know quite a few social workers,” LaGrange said. “They do a tremendous job. They really want to make sure that the people that are in their care are getting to the right spots. We all want that.”

LaGrange said this case, to her, demonstrates a “real gap” in the system. She said the government is committed to a cross-ministry approach to continuing care, one that ensures there are proper procedures and standards in place.

“Now that we know there’s a problem, myself, Minister Nixon, Minister Williams, Athana, we’re all on it and we’re going to make sure we clear this up.”

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