Two nursing homes in Red Deer will shut down once a privately-run continuing care facility opens its doors in September, Alberta Health and Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky said on Friday.
Closing Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home will not be a loss for the region because a new place, Michener Hill Village, will offer even more beds for area residents, Zwozdesky said.
According to earlier reports, Michener Hill Village will have 220 long-term care beds compared with 216 found in the two existing nursing homes. Michener Hill will also have 60 supportive living beds.
Zwozdesky disagreed that Red Deer is only receiving four additional long-term care beds because he said the additional supportive living beds should also be included.
“There are new ways of helping people than when those old terms were coined,” said Zwozdesky from Edmonton. “That’s why we refer to all these spaces as continuing care. They have far greater flexibility that way. In this particular care, this new Michener Hill centre, you are talking about eight wings over there served by a centralized area, within a homelike setting.
“I think people will feel very comfortable there.”
Zwozdesky also said the Bethany Collegeside will receive 100 additional continuing care spaces. The province has also presented $10 million to Covenant Health to help build a new $25-million seniors facility in Red Deer that will provide 100 designated assisted living beds.
But the head of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said Premier Ed Stelmach’s government should keep the nursing homes open.
“There are 230 people in Central Alberta waiting for long-term care, so it’s a mystery why they would close these 216 beds,” said president Guy Smith.
His group is organizing the city’s third rally to stop the nursing homes’ closure. It will run on Thursday, Aug. 10, at City Hall Park, starting at 4 p.m.
Smith remains hopeful the government will listen to protesters’ pleas. Two similar rallies were held, one at each facility, in June.
When asked if the province was listening to residents’ concerns, Zwozdesky said Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski was more in tune with what was happening locally. Jablonski, minister of seniors and community supports, couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.
“Seniors housing, she is actually the one who looks after getting them built,” Zwozdesky said. “The decision, whether to close, open, build new or whatever rests with Seniors and Community Supports ministry.”
Alberta Health Services runs such buildings after they have been constructed or they contract out to other providers, he added.
Smith doesn’t understand why the two nursing homes, built in the 1960s, aren’t upgraded because this would help relieve the waiting list, along with the opening of Michener Hill.
Zwozdesky has asked department staff to look at Valley Park Manor to see if it might have any other uses. The Red Deer Nursing Home is older, so staff is not checking into what can be done there.