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Vacant nursing homes too costly to modernize

Two vacant Red Deer nursing homes are not worth upgrading to meet current senior care standards, Alberta Health Services has determined.

Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski said Monday that this means the buildings now go to Alberta Infrastructure for repurposing or disposal.

The Valley Park Manor in Riverside Meadows, across the street from Fairview School, and the Red Deer Nursing Home, on 30th Street, were closed in 2010. Valley Park Manor was a 116-bed facility while the Red Deer Nursing Home had 99 beds.

They were closed in favour of Michener Hill Extendicare, which opened in 2010. The two nursing homes have been vacant ever since, although the power remains on and the buildings are regularly checked and basic maintenance is done. And that has cost the province as much as $600,000.

“AHS had intended to use these buildings,” said Jablonski. “As they have gone through their process of investigating the buildings, reviewing and inspecting, they have concluded it would be too costly to modernize these buildings.

“They are now giving up these buildings for disposal.”

She said disposal means every provincial department has a chance to see if it could use the buildings. Cabinet would then be required to approve a department’s proposed use.

Should no department have a need for the buildings, it would then be Alberta Infrastructure’s responsibility to dispose of them.

Jablonski said she doesn’t know what the policy is for selling vacant seniors facilities and having a private company modernize them.

“There are people who think they might want to use those buildings,” she said.

“First it has to go to the different departments to ensure they wouldn’t have a need for these buildings and if they’re going to be sold or demolished, the proposal has to go to cabinet and there has to be cabinet approval.”

A statement from AHS said they have completed reviews of both facilities and it would not be cost effective to renovate either building, given significant upgrades required to meet current care standards.

“Neither building is appropriate for providing care to our patients,” the statement said.

However, regular upkeep and maintenance continues at both sites, including daily visits by AHS staff, snow clearing in the winter and grass-cutting in the summer, plus facility lighting and heating. As well, fire alarm and safety systems are still in use in the dormant buildings.

The AHS release said the costs associated with upkeep for the two vacant facilities is minimal. However, according to a 2011 information obtained by the Advocate, it costs $95,500 to maintain and secure each facility. That means as much as $600,000 has been spent on the abandoned buildings since the last senior moved out more than three years ago.

“Our focus is on bringing new continuing care spaces to Red Deer to serve seniors for years to come,” reads the AHS statement. “This includes 100 new supporting living spaces at the Covenant Care’s Villa Marie facility.”

mcrawford@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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