Protesters rally to save beds

About 150 protesters chanting “Save our beds!” continued their fight on Wednesday to protect Valley Park Manor, a Red Deer nursing home, from closure.

Friends of Medicare executive director David Eggen speaks to a group demonstrating against the proposed closure of the Valley Park Manor in Red Deer outside the 5010 Building Wednesday afternoon.

Friends of Medicare executive director David Eggen speaks to a group demonstrating against the proposed closure of the Valley Park Manor in Red Deer outside the 5010 Building Wednesday afternoon.

About 150 protesters chanting “Save our beds!” continued their fight on Wednesday to protect Valley Park Manor, a Red Deer nursing home, from closure.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, Central Alberta Council on Aging, Friends of Medicare, seniors, long-term care residents and members of the public gathered at the corner of 43rd Street and 50th Avenue, as vehicles honked in support.

It was the fourth public rally this year to protest shutting down publicly funded and operated Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor while people remain on a waiting list for long-term care.

Recently, petitions with 6,890 signatures were presented to the provincial government to keep the facilities open.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith told the crowd that after 40 years in power, the Progressive Conservatives refuse to use common sense.

“It makes sense to keep Valley Park Manor open. There’s a long-term care bed shortage in this province, especially in this region,” Smith said during the afternoon rally.

In particular, he blamed Seniors and Community Supports Minister Mary Anne Jablonski, who is MLA for Red Deer North.

“The one person who has the political ability to stand up for the people of her community is not doing it. It’s shameful.”

Last week, Jablonski told the Advocate that the future of Valley Park Manor is still open for review.

Residents from the two nursing homes are being transferred to the new publicly funded and privately operated Extendicare Michener Hill.

With 220 long-term care beds, Extendicare has only four more long-term care beds than Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor combined.

Extendicare will also be opening 60 designated assisted living beds for people with higher health needs who do not yet need to go into long-term care.

David Eggen, executive director of Alberta’s Friends of Medicare, said Valley Park Manor could be filled today by seniors who are waiting in hospital and at home. Decisions are being made based on greed and privatizing health care, not patient’s health, he said.

“This fight that you see in Red Deer, people are watching it right across the province and right across the country because this is a process of taking things that we own together and giving them away to a private corporation,” Eggen said.

“We know this is the front line and we’re drawing a line.”

All of the residents in Red Deer Nursing Home have been transferred, but transfers from Valley Park Manor were stopped in late September due to a lack of staff at Extendicare. Transfers resumed on Oct. 26.

Valley Park Manor resident Linda Cliffe, 59, will move to Extendicare on Monday. With recent staffing issues at Extendicare, she doesn’t know what to expect.

“I can speak up for myself. There’s others you worry about who can’t.”

Another Valley Park resident, Shirley Rodgers, 72, moves on Sunday and said she’d rather stay where she is.

“A little maintenance here and there, it would be OK,” Rodgers said.

She just hoped the rally will make a difference because there’s no room for people to wait in hospitals in Red Deer or elsewhere.

Rally organizers urged people to call Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky.

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