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Province backtracks on nursing cuts at Michener

The province has reversed its controversial decision to reduce weekend and holiday nursing support to 89 residents the government wants moved out of Michener Centre.

Just a week ago, Alberta Human Services alerted family members that after June 1, staff would have to use HealthLink, a walk-in clinic or the nearest hospital to seek assistance for residents on Sunday and statutory holidays if a registered nurse was required.

Registered nurses would only see residents from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Jason Heistad, executive secretary-treasurer with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said Naresh Bhardwaj, the associate minister for persons with disabilities, confirmed that the government has reversed its decision to reduce nursing care.

Lee Kvern, of Okotoks, whose 56-year-old sister lives at Michener, said it’s great that the government put a stop to its underhanded plan to smoke residents out, but it only happened because they were caught red-handed.

“At bare minimum, it’s a meagre olive branch from Bhardwaj. I think he did not anticipate us being here 14 months later. I think they’re starting to realize we aren’t going anywhere,” Kvern said Tuesday about the families determined to keep Michener open.

In March 2013, the province announced it was closing the older Michener buildings on the north and south sides that 120 residents call home.

Residents are to be moved out by the end of the year.

Kvern said it’s unfortunate that the cuts remain to Michener recreational programs, like the recent closure of Cheers Club where residents and the developmentally disabled from the larger community would watch movies and play bingo.

“There’s basically not much left for Michener people to do,” Kvern said.

Last week Alberta NDP, Friends of Medicare and Alberta Union of Provincial Employees spoke out against the changes to Michener nursing care.

Heistad said he was pleased the province changed its mind.

But the bigger fight to keep south side buildings at Michener open continues, he said.

“We hope that discussion can happen and that under a new leader the Redford policy made in 2013 can be reversed,” Heistad said.

AUPE and Michener families plan to meet with PC leadership candidates Jim Prentice and Ric McIver to discuss Michener’s future.

“They’re willing to sit down and have that discussion. We’re just elated that we’re moving forward that way. We’re very pleased.”

AUPE also hopes to meet with Thomas Lukaszuk.

“Once we have those one-on-ones with all three candidates, it’ll give us an idea how we want to move forward with the (Save Michener) campaign,” Heistad said.



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