‘No fatality is acceptable’: NDP leadership candidate comments on Michener Centre

One more Alberta politician came to Red Deer Wednesday to call for a moratorium on transfers and an investigation into the deaths of five former Michener Centre residents.

One more Alberta politician came to Red Deer Wednesday to call for a moratorium on transfers and an investigation into the deaths of five former Michener Centre residents.

David Eggen, Edmonton-Calder NDP MLA, was in Red Deer Wednesday to speak about the beleaguered centre for people with developmental disabilities and to ask for the closure decision to be reversed.

More residents of Michener Centre are to be transferred from the centre later this month.

Eggen is vying for the leadership of the NDP party along with Rachel Notley and Rod Loyala.

Eggen said the transfer of residents from the centre should be reconsidered after news that five of 43 residents moved from Michener Centre have died.

“We saw an unacceptable fatality rate among the transfers out of Michener over the last number of months,” said Eggen. “No fatality is acceptable.

“Now there is a new round of transfers we could be seeing in the next number of days and weeks.”

Terence Harding, an Alberta Human Services communications advisor, confirmed Wednesday that transfers from Michener Centre scheduled for September will continue as planned.

Surrounded by a dozen Michener Centre supporters, Eggen took shelter under a tree to make the announcement near the Michener Hill Curling Club.

Red Deer North MLA, Mary Anne Jablonski came out immediately after the release of the news about the deaths broke about two weeks ago.

“I am shocked with the number of deaths of my constituents since they have been moved out of Michener,” said Jablonski in a Facebook post to the Friends of Michener Page.

“I have asked Premier (Dave) Hancock for an immediate moratorium on the transfers of our residents and an investigation into these deaths.”

Eggen, also an NDP leadership candidate, called on PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice to take a stand on the future of Michener Centre. The two other PC leadership candidates — Rick McIvor and Thomas Lukaszuk — have said they would keep the centre open or review its closure. Prentice has not taken a definite stance

The first ballot in the PC leadership race is scheduled for Saturday.

“We have to stop the transfers, we have to put a pause on transfers out of this centre until we actually investigate the deaths that have taken place and we review what the future of this facility is,” said Eggen.

Barry Gordon Hobbs, 64, was transferred from Michener on March 20 and died on July 31; Thomas Eastman, 67, transferred on March 13 and died on July 9; Merton Henry Klippert, 69, transferred on April 24 and died on July 5; Orville Culbert, 54, transferred on March 20 and died on July 15 and Freida Laferty, 64, transferred on April 3 and died on June 4.

There is no indication that any of the deaths were from lack of care in their new settings. But critics say that many of Michener’s Centre’s residents are considered more fragile than other adults and don’t transfer into new settings well. Many have lived at Michener Centre for most of their lives.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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