Michener Centre closure will send fragile residents to seniors facilities

Plans to close Michener Centre in about 10 months and move 175 residents with developmental disabilities to group homes or seniors’ facilities will not be easy given the needs of some residents, says vice-president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging.

Plans to close Michener Centre in about 10 months and move 175 residents with developmental disabilities to group homes or seniors’ facilities will not be easy given the needs of some residents, says vice-president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging.

About 50 medically fragile residents will be heading to seniors facilities.

Doug Janssen said Friday that there are already seniors waiting in hospital and in Red Deer who need beds, plus seniors from Symphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge where 49 Alberta Health Services funded beds are closing.

Michener is also home to some residents with severe behaviour problems who could not fit in elsewhere, said Janssen who has worked in the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) field.

“These two groups of folks are very, very difficult to place. In the event placement is unsuccessful, what are the alternates?” asked Janssen on Friday.

He said given the traditional differences between mental health services and PDD, it’s highly unlikely Michener residents would go to Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka.

Some of the medically fragile seniors are profoundly handicapped and virtually bed-ridden, he said.

“There’s not many nursing homes that will have the capability to serve a lot of these folks,” Janssen said.

Michener’s closure was announced by the province Monday to friends and family of Michener Centre residents, many of whom pledged to oppose the decision to close the 90-year-old institution.

Brenda Corney, chair of Friends of Medicare Red Deer chapter, wondered how much planning has gone into closing Michener.

“To just throw (Michener seniors) into the population and expect people with no experience with mental disabilities to know exactly what to do for them is kind of over the top. It’s just one more added stressor to long-term care system that isn’t functioning all that well,” Corney said.

“It doesn’t take much inquiry to know long-term care beds aren’t in abundance here.”

Residents are going to lose caregivers who know them and understand what they need just like the seniors transferred to Extendicare Michener Hill when the province closed Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor in 2010, she said.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees anticipates as many as 400 of Michener’s 640 staff will be laid off, redeployed or retrained.

For years agencies contracted to care for PDD clients in the community have had a hard time retaining staff due to lower wages. This year the province is giving agencies a 10-per-cent wage increase for staff.

Corney said the province is more interested in cutting health care costs than focusing on what patients, staff and the health care system needs.

Over the years Michener grew to 60 buildings and housed more than 2,200 residents.

Michener Centre, which comprises over 300 acres, is located between 30th and 40th Avenues in Red Deer. It has a north and south site, located one kilometre part.

About 105 Michener residents are already in Michener Hill group homes, most located at the south site, and a few are nearby in Michener Hill residential neighbourhood.

Operating Michener Centre costs $41 million annually, which includes the cost of existing group homes.

Cheryl Chichak, spokesperson with Alberta Human Services, said residents who will be moving have typically chosen to stay at Michener.

About 15 per cent of Michener residents would be considered to have complex behavioural needs and about 10 per cent have extensive medical needs.

“There isn’t anyone living at Michener that has higher needs than people who are living in the community. We have community service providers who are experts at providing support for people with complex needs whether those are behavioural or health needs,” Chichak said.

“Over the years people have been moving out as community options get better and better and as care moves towards that direction. The ones who are there are usually the ones who wanted to stay or family really wanted them to stay.”


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