Vacant nursing homes in limbo

Alberta Health Services has yet to hand over Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor to Alberta Infrastructure for repurposing or disposal.

Alberta Health Services has yet to hand over Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor to Alberta Infrastructure for repurposing or disposal.

In January, the Advocate was told that AHS had determined the two shuttered long-term care facilities were not worth upgrading to meet current seniors care standards and the buildings were to be turned over to Alberta Infrastructure.

Alberta Infrastructure spokesperson Dallas Huybregts said AHS still owns the sites.

“They know that we’re interested in them but no transaction has taken place yet,” Huybregts said.

He said with AHS involved in the transaction, it’s more complicated than a department to department transfer.

Alberta Health Services had not responded to the Advocate by press time on Thursday.

Huybregts said the Department of Seniors must still evaluate the buildings to determine if they will be demolished.

The two publicly operated facilities, Valley Park Manor with 116 beds and Red Deer Nursing Home with 99, were closed in the fall of 2010 when public-funded, privately-operated Michener Hill Extendicare opened.

Since then, power, security and basic maintenance, like snow clearing, has cost AHS $764,000 based an annual cost of about $95,500 per year per building.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said the city has taken a strong and consistent position that both Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home are public assets and the city can repurpose them for community use in a variety of ways.

“We want to work with the province, in consultation with the community, to determine the future of them,” Veer said.

For example, input from Riverside Meadows Community Association would be sought in the case of Valley Park Manor, she said.

A few years ago provincial policy changed so that the province no longer gives municipalities right of first refusal on public assets.

“They have said though if we can demonstrate community purpose for those assets, that they strongly consider those applications.”

Veer said the city met in October with Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar, who was responsive to Red Deer’s position.

“Now that the government is under new leadership, our hope is that the province’s public agenda will start to move more swiftly than it has been,” Veer said.

Last week in the Alberta legislature, Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas asked Bhullar when the sites would be made available to other government departments.

Bhullar said he believed his department will be able to move forward “in a very swift manner,” as recorded in Alberta Hansard.

Dallas also asked Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson if the sites would be used to provide “much needed affordable housing, lodges or assisted living for Red Deer residents and seniors.”

Johnson said his department was working with Alberta Infrastructure and his staff will be onsite by the end of November to look at the appropriateness of these sites.

“These are taxpayer assets. If there is any way that we can put them to work in future plans to help seniors, we have a great appetite to do that,” Johnson said.

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