NEW HOME - Winnie Krikke checks out her new home during the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday to officially open the new Extendicare Michener Hill facility in Red Deer.

Extendicare Michener Hill officially opens

Controversy over future of closed nursing homes still unresolved

Red Deer’s latest continuing care facility was officially unveiled to the community on Monday, effectively marking the end of two aging nursing homes in the City.

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.

“It was cheaper to build, and that’s why we built Michener Hill Village,” said Mary Anne Jablonski, provincial minister of seniors and community supports and MLA for Red Deer North.

She did say there might be some life left in Valley Park Manor within the health care system, but precisely what that could be is yet to be decided.

“I believe it’s been made clear that Red Deer Nursing Home is far too old, and the cost of refurbishing it to government standards is way too high for us to consider using it,” said Jablonski.

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.

Meanwhile, Sam Denhaan, president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, said it was also his understanding the province is still considering what, if anything, to do with both the old facilities.

“We don’t know when that will happen,” he said, adding that Valley Park Manor in particular could be used for a similar purpose as before or as an entirely new project.

“Valley Park Manor has been renovated more often than the (Red Deer Nursing Home),” he said.

As to Michener Hill Village, Jablonski said it was time to provide a new option for seniors entering continuing care.

“We’ve talked to a lot seniors in Alberta, and they’ve told us what they expect. They want options, choices and home-like settings,” she said. “I think Extendicare Michener Hill Village offers just that.”

She did acknowledge that both the former nursing homes held much history in the community.

“These two buildings that have housed our seniors have history here and I’m sure there are a lot of people that are attached to them,” she said.

But she added that the facilities more resembled hospitals than long-term care facilities.

“Seniors have told us they don’t want that. When they go into continuing care, they’re probably here for the rest of their lives,” she said. “They don’t want to be a hospital for the rest of their lives – they want to be in a beautiful home-like setting where they can invite their family and friends to be with them, and where they can be comfortable and not feel like it’s hospital care,” she said.

“I’m very excited, because this is an example of the kind of facilities we want for our seniors for today and going into the future,” said Jablonski.

Another 100-bed continuing care facility has also recently been green-lit for Red Deer by the province.

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling said at Monday’s grand opening that his thoughts went back to the sod-turning for the Extendicare Michener Hill project a few years back. He said the parcel of land on which the structure is situated has been put to good use.

“It’s a very impressive facility and I’m sure it will provide really comfortable accommodation for the seniors living here.”

mweber@reddeerexpress.com

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