Questions raised in wake of alleged Michener deaths

  • Aug. 27, 2014 3:13 p.m.

Opposition parties are raising questions following reports of the deaths of several former clients of Michener Centre.

Wildrose Human Services Critic Kerry Towle said that Premier Dave Hancock and Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar must stop the movement of all residents and commit to keeping Michener Centre open.

There have reportedly been five deaths of former Michener residents after being moved away from their decades-long home at the Centre.

“The deaths of former Michener residents after having to go through the traumatic experience of being ripped from their homes is tragic and our condolences go to all the family members involved,” said Towle, adding that her party has opposed the closure of Michener, a home for people with severe mental and physical disabilities, due to the highly specialized care it offers for residents.

Of the 125 residents slated to move out of Michener when this decision was announced 17 months ago, 32 were wards under the office of the Public Guardian of Alberta. The majority of those who have moved out so far have been moved out by the public guardian, said Towle.

Diane Esslinger, the sister of a current resident at Michener, said the government’s effort to shuttle residents away from what has become their permanent home for decades lacks compassion and common sense.

“The actions of this government have left a tremendous deal of stress, fear and anxiety for myself, but more importantly for my brother, Larry,” she said.

Naresh Bhardwaj, associate minister for persons with disabilities with the Progressive Conservatives, recently issued the following statement in response to calls for an investigation into the deaths of people who have transferred from the Michener Centre. “We have every confidence in the care providers and medical professionals who ensure individuals receive equal or better care than what they had while at Michener,” she said.

“We do regular follow-ups and check-ins with every individual who has moved into the community to ensure their needs are being met and that any concerns are addressed immediately.

“In every case, the families of each resident that is moved from Michener into another care setting, meets with their loved one’s care professionals to develop, and approve of, a transition plan supporting his or her unique medical and care needs.

“If anyone has any evidence to suggest the needs of an individual are not being met, or that a death was caused by a transition to another care setting, we ask that they speak with the appropriate authorities.”

Ric McIver, a candidate for leadership of the Progressive Conservatives, said that if he were elected, he is committed to keeping the facility open.

“A promise made should be a promise kept,” said McIver. “Therefore I will allow current residents of Michener Centre to stay at Michener, unless they and their families find and agree to an alternative living location and arrangement.”

Meanwhile, the Alberta Liberals said that the Tories are “keeping up appearances” and can’t be trusted to keep the facility open.

“Alberta Liberals have consistently supported keeping Michener open because this is one decision that should not be tossed around like a political football,” said Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman.