Senior advocates lose battle for Valley Park Manor

Seniors’ advocates have lost their battle to keep open the 116-bed Valley Park Manor nursing home in Red Deer, with the last patient transferred out to the new Extendicare Michener Hill facility earlier this week.

Seniors’ advocates have lost their battle to keep open the 116-bed Valley Park Manor nursing home in Red Deer, with the last patient transferred out to the new Extendicare Michener Hill facility earlier this week.

Sam Denhaan, president of Central Alberta Council on Aging, said he’s disappointed by the manor’s closure — especially since hospital emergency wards around Alberta are already under stress.

“We have (seniors) waiting in hospitals because they are not able to move to a nursing home because there are not enough long-term care beds,” said Denhaan.

He added that other frail seniors are waiting for months in their homes, or in far-flung nursing homes around the region, for the chance to get a bed closer to their families in Red Deer.

In addition to vacating Valley Park Manor, the 99-bed Red Deer Nursing Home was previously closed after patients were moved to Extendicare. The total of 215 beds in the two older facilities are replaced by 220 new long-term care beds and 60 assisted living spaces at the new complex near Michener Centre.

Denhaan doesn’t believe the extra beds will be nearly enough to make a difference in waiting times. Nor does AUPE president Guy Smith, who said on Wednesday, “It makes no sense to close a facility that’s desperately needed.”

The union had collected more than 6,600 signatures on a petition that was presented to legislature on Oct. 25. As well, letters were written to MLAs and several Save Our Seniors Homes rallies were held in Red Deer — to no avail.

Smith had heard as many as 200 Central Alberta seniors are waiting for nursing home spots. But Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas disclosed lower numbers on Wednesday.

Dallas said 17 Red Deer seniors are waiting in hospital or in their homes for nursing home beds, and a further 33 seniors are waiting in regional facilities for the chance to move to a facility in Red Deer.

The MLA said he looks forward to all those people soon being accommodated at Extendicare. Between the long-term care beds and the new assisted living spots, Dallas believes there will be enough capacity to meet needs.

Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, who is also Alberta’s seniors affairs minister, also believes the new facility can accommodate the people on the wait list. There are still 60 beds to fill at Extendicare, said Jablonski, as well as 30 continuing care beds in Innisfail.

The government has not yet announced what will happen to the closed Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home buildings. But Denhaan hopes the land will be kept for some public service use, rather than sold for private development.

He said it’s rare to have large lots available for public service buildings within the city.

Jablonski said the Red Deer Nursing Home building would require too many upgrades to be used as a health care facility, but Valley Park Manor is in better condition and could be “repurposed.” She’s not sure when decisions will be made.

The remaining staff at Valley Park Manor were given new layoff notices this week. Their last day of work, unless they can transfer to jobs in other facilities, will be Nov. 22.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com