Edmonton hospital patient had been hoping for a care home. He wound up at a hotel instead

An Edmonton family is frustrated and upset after a 62-year-old man who had been in hospital with care needs was sent to stay at a hotel.

Blair Canniff had been a patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for roughly six months when he said a social worker told him he was going to be moved.

“They told me I was going to a facility for long-term care,” Canniff recalled of the conversation. “They told me where it was, in Leduc, and that’s all I knew.”

With a paralyzed left side after a stroke, Canniff uses a wheelchair and said he had been expecting to move to some type of assisted-living facility.

On March 4, he said he was placed in a taxi that took him to a Travelodge in Leduc, roughly 35 kilometres south of Edmonton.

“It was sorta a joke,” he said, when asked about his reaction pulling up to a hotel.

Canniff said he was taken in a taxi to the Travelodge in Leduc. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

Prior to his move, Canniff said he was not given a list of options to pick from and said he was not given a choice. He said the organization running the program at the hotel was Contentment Social Services.

A hotel, not a LTC facility

At the hotel, Canniff said he received a few visits a day from health-care workers but he struggled to get to the bathroom because the door was too narrow, and into bed because there wasn’t room for his chair at the side of the bed.

On the same day he was moved to the hotel, he said he asked his wife Myna Manniapik to help him.

“I asked him, ‘Oh, is it all fixed up for wheelchair users?'” recalled Manniapik. “And he said, ‘No, it’s just like a motel, any hotel room, and I can’t get into the bathroom and I need help to get to bed.’

“If something happens to his good arm, then he would become totally helpless…. The facility is not set up for disabled [people] or [the] elderly or for anyone that needs assisting.”

A woman with short hair and blue-rimmed glasses sits in a living room.
Myna Manniapik has been Blair Canniff’s partner for approximately 32 years. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

Manniapik was also worried because Canniff was being fed fast food and said his hygiene was also not managed. 

“I was really sad to see the kind of care he was getting, which was not even care as far as I’m concerned.”

CBC News spoke with a front desk staff worker who reiterated the Travelodge was a hotel, not a long-term care facility, with rooms that could be booked online by the general public.

On Wednesday, the employee said an organization had rented out between eight to 10 rooms for several days and that a worker would come during the day to check on the guests, some of whom were in wheelchairs.

Highly unusual

Donna Wilson, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta in Edmonon and a researcher of aging and end-of-life care, said this type of move is highly unusual.

“Sending someone from hospital, particularly if they’ve been there for six months, so obviously they have heavy care needs … moving that person basically to a hotel or motel, I’ve never heard of that happening in Alberta,” she said.

A woman with short white hair and a blue blazer sits in a room.
Donna Wilson is a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and a researcher of aging and end-of-life care. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

Wilson said, considering Canniff’s mobility issues, it could have been a recipe for disaster.

“He could fall out of that wheelchair and break a hip, break an arm,” she said.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2021, Alberta had one of the lowest per-capita numbers in the country of long-term care beds for seniors:

  • Alberta had 26 beds per 1,000 seniors over 65.
  • Ontario had 30 beds per 1,000 seniors over 65.
  • Nova Scotia had 33 beds per 1,000 seniors over 65.
  • Saskatchewan, the highest among the provinces, had 47 beds per 1,000 seniors over 65.

“Now that we’ve got this interesting situation where somebody was discharged to a hotel instead of to a nursing home, it tells you that … there aren’t nursing home beds available,” Wilson said.

She adds that, typically, a patient needing assisted living undergoes an assessment to determine the best place for them and their family is given three options, which they then rank, and when a space opens up, that person is moved there.

“In this case, it doesn’t sound like the family was appropriately informed or this man was appropriately informed about what this option, what this motel or hotel would be like and what kind of support this person would be getting there,” Wilson said.

Alberta Health Services response

Alberta Health Services (AHS) did not make anyone available for an interview.

In a statement provided to CBC News, AHS did not respond to specific questions about whether a motel is an appropriate place for a patient to be sent.

“Based on an individual’s care needs at the time of discharge, including their ability to live independently and to adhere to relevant housing criteria, different discharge options are considered – this can include going home (with or without community support), lodges, continuing care, emergency shelters, transitional housing, and short and long-term rentals,” a statement from an AHS spokesperson reads.

The outside of an Edmonton hospital.
Blair Canniff had been a patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for approximately six months when he said a social worker told him he was going to be moved. He thought he was going to assisted living but that’s not where they dropped him off. (CBC)

The statement further said community non-profit organizations can help support the needs of community clients.

“AHS works to connect patients with these types of programs if they require assistance with housing options following discharge from acute care,” it reads.

CBC News went to an address listed on Contentment Social Services’s website but found it was a mailing address. CBC News called two numbers associated with the non-profit multiple times, texted one of those numbers three times, and sent several emails requesting an interview and comment for this story but did not hear back.

Back in hospital

Canniff said he found out Sunday March 10 that he was going to be moved out of the hotel the next day, without explanation.

The following day, he said the social services agency called him a cab and he returned to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, where he said he spent more than 14 hours in the emergency room before being readmitted.

He said he is not sure yet what the plan moving forward is. When asked whether he trusted the system to get him into a safe place, Canniff said he thinks he would be better off finding a place on his own.

Manniapik said there should be some oversight of facilities before patients are brought there.

“I’m hoping that he can be placed in a safe [place] where he can feel safe and cared for,” she said.

One thing is clear though: Canniff does not want to return to a hotel.

“It was just a terrible situation,” he said.

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