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Level of care at Extendicare Michener Hill still inadequate: Dawe

After one and half years, Extendicare Michener Hill still fails to provide seniors with the care they were promised, says Red Deer North Liberal candidate Michael Dawe.

Dawe said the $55-million building is lovely to look at with its open spaces and separate care units, but the level of care isn’t adequate.

“I’m not criticizing how hard the staff work. It’s just that if you’re trying to cover several physically separate units, you physically can’t do it. It’s impossible. The only way you can do it is dramatically increase the number of staff and have staff assigned continuously to each area and that’s not happening,” said Dawe.

Extendicare Michener Hill is a publicly-funded, privately-owned and operated facility with 220 long-term care beds and 60 assisted living beds.

Publicly-funded and operated facilities Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home were closed by the Progressive Conservative government when Extendicare Michener Hill opened in September 2010.

In an email to the Advocate, Terry Vanbocquestal, administrator at Extendicare Michener Hill, said his facility continues to “meet and often exceed the Alberta Health Services standards for staffing.”

“Extendicare is spending more on staffing than the money allocated to us by Alberta Health Services. We do not have any plans to change our staffing patterns at this time,” Vanbocquestal said.

Red Deer North Progressive Conservative incumbent Mary Anne Jablonski said if elected she will advocate for more funding from Alberta Health Services to increase staffing at Extendicare.

“I’d make that one of my very first priorities. It’s been made very clear to me there is a need there,” Jablonski said.

“Extendicare is staffing to the standard level of staffing, however due to the design of the building, they do require a few more staff.”

Dawe said he was surprised that Jablonski has now flagged staffing as an issue at Extendicare.

“This isn’t an new issue,” he said.

Many people have been calling for more staff for a long time, he said.

“We’re talking about people who have been uncomfortable, in distress and in some cases even suffering,” Dawe said of residents.

A Red Deer woman who regularly visits her mother, a resident at Extendicare, said staff who come in to help from other units during staff shortages also need to be familiar with each resident’s health problems.

Her mother is prone to choking on her food.

“(Extendicare) needs more staff and they need to be educated on certain diseases so that they know how to handle that person,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified for fear of repercussions for her mother at the facility.

Doug Janssen, vice-president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, said Extendicare is an international corporation that lost funding last year due to American budget cuts and welcomes the profit it makes in Canada.

“The reality is Extendicare relies on family members to be caregivers. It’s part of their unspoken staffing strategy,” Janssen said.

Red Deer North NDP candidate Derrek Seelinger said while door-knocking he spoke with an Extendicare worker who was deeply upset about the lack of staff and its impact on residents.

“She really needed someone to vent to. It doesn’t stay at work. They take this stuff home with them because they care,” Seelinger said.

He said the NDP supports publicly-funded, publicly-operated continuing care, like at Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home, where there was more care and dignity for residents.

“Let’s sort it out. Let’s get staff there now because it’s needed now. Enough talk from politicians. People before profits,” Seelinger said.

“Is our health care a commodity to be bought and sold? Morally, I don’t believe it is,” said Brenda Corney, chairperson of Friends of Medicare, Red Deer Chapter.

“When you run anything for a profit, the profit has to come from somewhere. You have to take it out of something. You have to take it out of standards of care, or you have to take it out of wages.”

Red Deer North Wild Rose candidate Randy Weins said Extendicare has never been properly staffed and Wildrose’s balanced budget includes $50 million for 1,000 new senior care support workers for home care, long-term care and assisted living.

The fact that it’s a private company operating the Extendicare is not the issue, he said.

“I think it’s a problem of not enough front-line staff and funding for it,” Weins said.

Red Deer North Alberta Party candidate Brent Chalmers said a private company running a continuing care facility is going squeeze out as much profit as possible.

“Elders, because of their situation, they can’t do for themselves anymore. To take advantage of them is a travesty,” Chalmers said.

“We have to have an independent seniors’ advocate that reports to the legislature so we know what’s going on.”



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