Seniors housing protest

A third community protest will get underway at City Hall Park today over the provincial government’s decision to close two Red Deer nursing homes.

A third community protest will get underway at City Hall Park today over the provincial government’s decision to close two Red Deer nursing homes.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees members who work at Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor will gather with other supporters at 4 p.m. to make a plea against the closures. They’ll be joined in solidarity by supporters in Lethbridge.

Bev Muendel-Atherstone, vice-president of the Friends of Medicare in Lethbridge, said they’ll be holding a rally at the same time because similar service cuts have been done in Lethbridge. Both cities lost their cytology labs at the same time when the government privatized the service.

“What happens in Red Deer or here, it’s going to happen to all of us — privatizing and centralizing services,” Muendel-Atherstone said. “We realize this is happening provincewide, even though they are attacking us, each one at a time . . . without consultation of the constituents.”

Muendel-Atherstone said the government is phasing out long-term beds at a Lethbridge facility known as St. Michael’s Health Centre.

AUPE President Guy Smith said the Red Deer rally will give Health and Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky, Seniors and Community Supports Minister Mary Anne Jablonski and Progressive Conservative MLAs from across the region a chance to hear the pleas of seniors and others who are concerned with the shutdowns. Two similar rallies were held earlier directly outside the nursing homes.

The provincial government will begin shutting down the facilities, built in the 1960s, on Sept. 1. The final patients will be moved out by Oct. 6.

The residents will move into a privately run continuing care centre, Michener Hill Village, which is near completion. The province says the same rates for care will apply through the Extendicare facility as they did at the two nursing homes.

Smith said the union has collected nearly 5,500 signatures on a petition to keep the 216 long-term care beds open.

Additionally, nearly 250 people have used the union’s online tool to send letters to their MLAs.

The union has said that the nursing homes shouldn’t be closed because there’s a waiting list of 230 Central Albertans needing long-term care.

The provincial government has disputed the union’s understanding that the new facility is only increasing the number of long-term beds in Red Deer by four, to 220 long-term beds.

It says the 60 designated assisted living beds or supportive living beds should also be included in the equation. Seniors want to stay as independent as possible, according to Jablonski.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com