Alberta premier reverses plan to close Michener Centre in Red Deer

(Watch above: For 18 months, the families of Michener Centre residents have pushed back against the government’s decision to close the facility. Today, Premier Prentice reversed the decision. Tom Vernon reports.)

RED DEER – Alberta’s new premier says a care home for the developmentally disabled that was slated for closure will remain open for those who want to stay.

Jim Prentice won applause while making the announcement at the Michener Centre in Red Deer.

He said it’s inhumane to transfer residents, many of them seniors, who have called the centre home since they were children.

“All Michener residents will be permitted to live out their remaining years in the place that has long been their home among people whose embrace they have enjoyed for many years.”

Read More: Non-profit group questions process of transitioning Michener Centre residents

Prentice’s announcement also means former Michener Centre residents will be allowed to return to the facility, but the centre will not be accepting new residents.

The AUPE – Alberta’s largest union – applauded the decision.

“We’re pleased the new premier understands the value in Michener Centre and that he’s willing to live up to the province’s 2008 promise to keep Michener open for those who wish to stay,” said Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ Secretary Treasurer Jason Heistad.

“Many living at Michener have been there most of their lives. They now know they can stay and that’s made them and their loved ones very, very happy.”

The government announced last year that it was going to close the north and south sides of the centre and move 125 residents into the community.

Officials said people would get more personalized care, but critics argued the closure was about saving money on the backs of the most vulnerable in society.

Read More: Alberta opposition parties want Michener Centre to stay open

The province’s opposition parties said the residents and their relatives should be congratulated for fighting so hard to keep the centre open.

Kerry Towle, Wildrose seniors critic, said in a statement it’s too bad it took so long, since dozens have already suffered upheaval.

“It is my sincere hope that the PC government has seen the error of its ways and that this is not merely a decision made for political reasons. It’s imperative that the PCs learn why closing Michener was the wrong decision in the first place to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

Opposition parties called earlier this year for an investigation into the deaths of five residents after they were transferred from the centre.

With files from Global News 

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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