Tory leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk says he would “most definitely” keep Michener Centre open pending a review to explore its future.
“I would not make a hasty decision to close it. I would want to first satisfy myself whether this perchance isn’t a diamond in the rough that could actually be reprofiled into something even bigger and better,” said Lukaszuk who visited Michener Centre on Thursday afternoon.
Lukaszuk said he walked through several buildings, met with residents and staff, and had a long talk with family members.
“The first thing you notice is the sense of community within the facility. The bond among the residents despite their level of functioning and cognition is undeniable, and their familiarity with the surroundings and the sense of belonging there is also undeniable,” he said about residents he saw navigate around corners without even looking because they’ve lived there for 40-some years.
Last spring the province announced that older buildings on Michener’s north and south sides would close forcing the relocation of 120 of Michener’s most severely developmentally disabled residents. The decision came as a shock to families who had long been promised that residents could live out their lives at Michener.
“I know from my background that persons with these kinds of disorders are very much dependent upon routine and they are definitely very accustomed to those surroundings,” said Lukaszuk. He last visited Michener about 15 years ago when he served as a citizen on the Social Care Facilities Review Committee that inspected facilities to report to government on residents’ care. He said he understands the economic argument to close the buildings, but not everything in life can be converted into dollars.
A variety of stakeholders should sit down and discuss whether Michener could be even more than it is right now to assist those with disabilities, mental health issues, and others, he said. If the outcome of a review still pointed to closure, residents should remain by way of attrition, up to a reasonable point, he said.
NDP health critic Dave Eggen has called for the province to push the pause button on Michener’s closure and was waiting to hear the position of all three PC leadership candidates.
“There are all kinds of compromises and ways we can resolve this. It was always this adversarial, secretive attitude that the government brought to Michener that just made everything worse,” Eggen said.