Hundreds of union workers rallied on the manicured Alberta Hospital grounds yesterday, in an attempt to keep the facility’s doors open.

“We are going to spearhead a campaign to keep Alberta Hospital open,” said Doug Knight, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president. “Clients come from all over Canada to this facility expressly for the care and treatment that they get here. It would be a crying shame if this facility was closed.”

The 410-bed mental health facility opened its doors in 1923. Nearly 1,700 patients are treated at the hospital each year.

The government made the decision to close the psychiatric hospital in mid-August, claiming the money saved would go into community resources, but Knight said there aren’t enough resources in the community now to house the hospital’s patients.

“There is no community treatment out there. We know that. So where are they going to go?” Knight said. “I’m not saying we’re against the idea of community treatment but this facility is still a required facility.”

Dr. Krishna Balachandra has been an adult psychiatrist at Alberta Hospital since September. He said he’s concerned about the morale of hospital staff.

“You can imagine what news like this is doing to the morale of the front line staff, it’s been quite hard on us,” he said. “We’ve been given vague guidelines that in the next one to three years there’s going to be drastic changes and a shift from in-patient focus to the community.

On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett once again affirmed his commitment to not move patients into the community until proper resources are in place.

“We’ve made an absolute commitment that people will not be moved from Alberta Hospital Edmonton until there’s a place for them to go,” Duckett said. “I’m not going to back off from that commitment.”