Lee Kvern visits with her sister Jody Kvern on Saturday

Michener Centre families remain opposed to closure

Several families of Michener Centre residents remain dead set against moving their loved ones out of the place that they have called home for decades.

Several families of Michener Centre residents remain dead set against moving their loved ones out of the place that they have called home for decades.

“I say no. Absolute no. Because this is the best place for my daughter. She’s very happy with the care she gets. It’s been wonderful care since 1969,” said Joyce Tona, 78, whose daughter Diane, 50, is one of about 120 residents the province is working to move out of Michener.

Since the province announced its plan almost one year ago, only eight residents have moved, with two more scheduled for last month.

All the moves were expected to occur by early 2014. Now the end of the year is the new target.

About 60 people with family members living at Michener attended a meeting at Roland Michener Recreation Centre on Saturday organized by Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre who have been fighting the plan to move residents currently living in the older buildings on Michener north and south sites.

Tona said she knows her daughter will be screaming and kicking mad and her health will be gravely impacted if she is moved.

“It’s going to be a slow death,” said Donna Tona, Diane’s sister.

“(Residents) will shut down. They will stop eating. They will cry out. They will become violent.”

That kind of visceral reaction is the only way they know how to respond, she said.

Michener supporters met on Saturday in part to talk about a judicial review that has been delayed until November so the group of 22 plaintiffs involved with the parents society can take more time to formulate their case.

They hope to show that the government decision was not the result of a suitable process and capable of being overruled by a judge to allow residents to stay.

Bill Lough. president of the Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre, said they aren’t budging.

All families are currently being contacted to find out if they want their loved ones to stay at Michener. Twenty-one out of 39 who have so far responded say yes.

“I’m very encouraged by the resiliency of these families. They are not beaten by any means. Actually I would say they are more empowered right now,” Lough said.

“We are going to challenge the government continually on this until they understand that they do not have the right to break what is a fundamental principle. The promise that no one should be forced to leave Michener.”

Provincial ministers and premiers over the past 20 years have promised Michener Centre would be there for residents as long as it was their desired option. That commitment was reinforced again in the Moving Ahead report in 2008.

On March 11, 2013, Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities Frank Oberle, announced the 2014 closure to unsuspecting family members.

Lough said Oberly was also fuzzy on the future of Michener group homes that house the rest of Michener’s approximately 100 residents.

“He said there was no immediate plans for closure. I will give you my word as minister that will not happen. But I can only promise under my budget calendar.”

Now there’s both a new associate minister and a new 2013-14 provincial budget.

Gordon Pearce, 84, of Calgary, whose son Gary, 48, lives in a Michener group home, said it’s frustrating to be hearing that group homes will stay open “for the foreseeable future.”

Gary has lived in a Michener group home for over 20 years.

“We tried some group homes and it didn’t work in Calgary. We heard about Michener. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him.”

Michener south site has 21 group homes and there are two off site.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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