Only days after it was revealed that 29 veterans and seniors are being evicted from the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Seniors Residence at Colonel Belcher in Calgary, PC leadership candidate Gary Mar reaffirmed his support for more P3s in health care.
The private company Chartwell Real Estate owns the Colonel Belcher and is responsible for the decision to evict the veterans and seniors living in the designated assisted living wing of the facility. Chief Operating Officer Richard Noonan told Calgary Herald that his company intends to upgrade the soon to be vacated suites so they would be available to rent privately for more money.
“The profitability of that community will probably improve after we make a significant investment and reposition the suites.” “We’ll be able to charge whatever the market can bear.”
The Colonel Belcher was created in the early 2000s through a P3 financial arrangement between the private company Apex and Carewest (which was then a wholly owned subsidiary of the Calgary Health Authority, and now Alberta Health Services).
The provincial government donated 26 acres of land for the complex and the Calgary Health Authority committed $20 million in capital costs while Apex was their private partner. The facility was later sold to Chartwell Real Estate, which also inherited the sixty year lease of the land which the facility sits on. Mr. Mar was the Minister of Health & Wellness when the P3 funding arrangement Colonel Belcher P3 was being developed.
When asked about P3s and the Colonel Belcher, Dr. Tom Noseworthy, co-director of the Calgary Institute for Population and Public Health, told the CBC that:
‘I have had experience with private-public partnerships. You get what you want now; you pay the price later’
Mr. Mar’s untimely position in favour of more private sector involvement in Alberta’s public health care system is reminiscent of a position taken by Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, who defended the privately-operated Health Resources Centre as it slid into bankruptcy in 2010.
Ms. Smith, who’s party recently reaffirmed their position in favour of increased private health care, was a strident defender of the flagship private surgical facility, which only survived as long as it did through generous public financial investments by the now-defunct Calgary Health Authority and its status as a preferred destination to send stable patients (leaving higher cost and less medically stable surgery patients in the public system).