EDMONTON - Alberta plans to mothball about 300 acute care hospital beds over three years to save money and to create emergency space in case of a serious swine flu outbreak.

The bed closures will result in roughly $50 million in savings, but Alberta Health Services says no layoffs are planned as it struggles with a $1 billion budget deficit.

The Alberta Health Services plan hinges on 15 private operators completing construction of 775 new assisted living and long-term care beds.

As the new community living facilities open, elderly patients that ended up in acute care beds because of space shortages will be transferred and the hospital beds will be mothballed.

The new plan follows an announcement earlier this summer that 150 beds are to be closed at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, the province's largest mental health facility.

Alberta Health Services has announced a deal with a private operator to open 150 community beds next May for some of the most serious mental health patients.

The plan also includes a major shuffling of hospital beds, including 60 beds that will be designated this year to relieve emergency department pressures.

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