PROTEST- Seniors at a rally earlier this year protest the closure of two Red Deer nursing homes. Tiffany Sigurdson/Red Deer Express

PROTEST- Seniors at a rally earlier this year protest the closure of two Red Deer nursing homes. Tiffany Sigurdson/Red Deer Express

AHS rescinds nursing home lay off notices

Alberta Health Services is rescinding lay off notices it gave to more than 100 nursing staff last month after the closure of two nursing homes in the City.

“This is mind boggling and absolutely disruptive,” said Guy Smith, president of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the union which represents the employees. “AHS has made a mess of this. It’s an absolute disaster. Who’s managing the system? Who’s running the ship?”

AHS sent a letter to general support services employees as well as auxiliary nursing employees earlier this month informing them they have made the decision to withdraw the layoff notices given to staff after it was discovered there was not enough workers to take care of the remaining 47 residents at Valley Park Manor.

The Express has also learned a number of staff hired to work at the new Extendicare Michener Hill facility have also quit.

“We have also heard that staff are quitting because the working conditions are different than they were at the nursing homes,” said Smith.

Kerry Bales, vice president of Alberta Health Services for the Central zone, said a timeline was in place and AHS had planned the move of the residents from Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor.

“We have had to look at pausing that move for the remaining residents to ensure Extendicare has the right level of staff to take care of them,” he said. “We have no indication of when the remaining residents will be moved over.”

In a letter dated Oct. 4, Bruce Stremel, director of human resource services central, states “Due to recent developments in staff scheduling and recruitment at Extendicare Michener Hill, Alberta Health Services has paused all admissions to the new facility. Extendicare and AHS will work together to ensure resident moves resume in a coordinated approach when the staffing compliments are at appropriate levels for the additional residents.

“Given the above information, this has a significant impact on the Layoff Notices that were recently issued to General Support Services and Auxiliary Nursing Employees who are employed at the Red Deer Nursing Home and at the Valley Park Manor.

“Please be advised that Alberta Health Services has made the decision to withdraw the Layoff Notice that Auxiliary Nursing Employees received on Sept. 20, 2010 and General Support Employees received on Sept. 24, 2010.”

Bales added AHS realizes this process isn’t easy for those involved.

“We understand that there is a lot of concern from residents, their families and the staff,” he said. “But at the end of the day we are doing what we know is best.”

Angela Gill, membership services officer for AUPE, said about 175 employees are affected by this notice.

“I can’t say for sure what an exact number of employees received lay off notices, but there are about 175 employees that are affected,” she said. “Temporary workers and casual workers wouldn’t have been given lay off notices, but they would still be affected.”

Shelley Rattray, communications with AHS, said staff is needed to care for about 40 residents who are still at Valley Park Manor.

“There are residents there who haven’t been moved over to the Extendicare facility yet,” she said.

Smith added this incident will affect not only the employees but their families as well.

“These people are hard working, dedicated and they have their whole hearts in it,” he said. “Work is stressful enough as it is. They don’t need this. It’s very disruptive to not only the employees, but also their families.”

Meanwhile, Extendicare Michener Hill was officially unveiled to the community last week.

Both the Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor were sources of contention over the past several months as groups like Friends of Medicare and the Central Alberta Council on Aging held rallies in support of keeping them open.

Extendicare Michener Hill consists of a range of units built around a ‘central village area’ that features several services to the residents.

Amenities include a chapel, a spacious auditorium, a family dining room, a gift shop and an entry lounge.

There’s a total of 280 beds in Extendicare Michener Hill, which exceeds the number of beds in Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home.