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Opposition charges Alberta government knew of hotel use for assisted living patients at earlier date

Nearly two months ago, the Alberta government launched four investigations into a company that placed people in hospital awaiting assisted-living accommodations into hotels.

Today, internal emails shared by the Official Opposition reveal both the province’s health and social services ministries received a complaint about the firm, called Contentment Social Services (CSS), months earlier.

One Edmonton family wasn’t surprised to hear of the complaint as they say they’ve been raising concerns about it for more than a year.

“Horrible care” is how Pamela Conningham describes the treatment her brother-in-law ‘Bill’ received for nearly two years from CSS.

“I think it was a long weekend, and they must have forgotten all about him — (he had) no cell phone and no way to get out,” Cunningham told CTV News Edmonton, describing one instance of neglectful care.

Bill had been referred to CSS by a social worker at Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital in 2022. By early 2023, his family started raising concerns to Alberta Health Services about the quality of services he was receiving but got no answers.

Alberta’s NDP says internal emails between officials in the ministries of Health and Social Services proves the province knew about concerns about the company in January.

“Inaction from those responsible for Albertans care is utterly unacceptable,” Marie Renaud, the NDP’s community and social services critic, said on Tuesday.

In documents obtained through a freedom of information request by the NDP, an official with the social services ministry describes the complaint as “basic and medical needs not being met by Contentment Social Services.”

It also found that in resolving the issue, an AISH supervisor said the complaint was beyond her scope and “shared information for resources such as 211, 811 and Voice of Albertans with Disabilities.”

The NDP says the province’s failure to act resulted in 25 people being housed in hotels in March.

“(Ministers) Jason Nixon and Adriana LaGrange knew there were issues with Contentment Social Services at least two months prior and did nothing,” Renaud said.

LaGrange, the minister of health, insists the complaint was handled appropriately, while social services minister Nixon says any allegations that the province knew patients were being held in motels is outrageous and false.

“Somewhere along the line, (CSS) made the very bizarre decision, and without the consultation of government to uproot those people, and take them to multiple different hotels and not care for them,” Nixon told media on Tuesday.

LaGrange says the company is not being recommended to patients at Alberta hospitals as four investigations and a review of discharge policies is underway.

CTV News Edmonton tried to contact CSS via email and phone. Its number is no longer in service.

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