Tuesday, 14 August 2012 07:10

Carmangay apology coming Wednesday; residents still want closure stopped

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The grounds where residents can wander and enjoy the flowers. The grounds where residents can wander and enjoy the flowers. Photo submitted

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne is expecting officials with Alberta Health Services to apologize for the way the closure of the Little Bow Continuing Care Centre (LBCCC) in Carmangay has been handled.


Horne made a surprise visit Aug. 8 to the facility specializing in the care of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to tour the site and speak with staff, residents and their families. The closure of the facility came to light in July and residents of the village of 275 have been fighting for it to remain open ever since. With a capacity of 20 beds, it had 18 residents in July but as of Aug. 9, six had already been moved to other facilities.
Community officials and family members have been hammering the government and AHS about the decision to close the facility, the reasoning behind it and the lack of communication about its closure.
“My biggest concern with this, and it was magnified yesterday (Aug. 8) was how this (situation) has been dealt with by Alberta Health Services,” said Horne, in a telephone interview Aug. 9. “There was a lack of consultation and poor communication with residents and staff. I’m extremely concerned about that and I believe Alberta Health Services owes an apology to the staff, the residents, their families and the community.”
Horne said he asked the chief operating officer of AHS to visit Carmangay this week to speak with staff and residents and that he believed an apology would be forthcoming at that time. That visit was set for Wednesday, after press deadlines.
His other concern is that residents and staff have the appropriate resources in place to make plans to move to new facilities.
“I’ve directed Alberta Health Services provide a support worker to come in and support the residents and families, helping them through the process of relocation and to be an advocate for them.”
When asked if that meant he would not be putting the closure of the facility on hold for review, Horne said he believes closing the facility is necessary.
“The facility is older. It is in very good condition and well-maintained, but I think the real issue is the viability of the facility in the long-term. Does it represent the modern facilities we want all our seniors to have access to?”
He said it is a smaller facility housing many residents who do not come from Carmangay and it has had staffing difficulties. Combine that with the long-term viability of the centre and the facility “is not viable for those reasons.”
He re-iterated the importance of the problems associated with how the facility is being closed, not the why.
“How (AHS) is dealing with the residents and the staff must improve and it begins with an apology.”
Officials with AHS have cited building code issues as a main reason for closing the facility built in 1958.
“It’s outdated as far as current building codes and in order to bring it up to 2012 Alberta Building Code standards, it needs a significant injection of renovations and money,” said Dave Shorten, acting vice-president community and rural and mental health, Calgary zone, AHS in an initial story in this paper about the closure.
Shorten added it is hard to find parts to repair aging infrastructure and if the building is renovated, costs to do so will be increased if, in all likelihood, asbestos is found.
Carmangay Mayor Kym Nichols, who also works at the LBCCC, was able to speak with Horne Aug. 8.
“I was really glad he had visited and I thought ‘now he can see what it looks like for himself,’” she says.  “He was impressed by the state of the building and I took that as a positive sign.”
She added Horne told her he had more questions now that he would be asking when he returned to Edmonton. Her hope, along with many others in the village as well as family members of residents, is still that the decision to close the facility will be reversed.
“I had hoped he would say in light of what he had seen he was going to halt the (closure) process and freeze it all,” she added.
A rally took place Tuesday in front of Premier Alison Redford’s constituency office in Calgary and a letter writing campaign by many continues.
Lou Patterson, whose father was moved out of the facility at the end of July into the Vulcan facility, just happened by chance to find out Horne was in Carmangay.
“I talked to him for about 15 minutes. He seemed on first impression he was concerned,” she said.
Now she’s not so sure Horne was listening to their concerns and finds the fact no one knew he was visiting the facility underhanded.
“It was sneaky and quiet, just like the whole thing has been,” she added. “There’s been six people moved out of there in three weeks.”
Patterson said families are being made to feel like they have to take the first bed that comes open for their relatives or they may not get another chance at a bed within a reasonable driving distance. That’s why she said yes to moving her father so quickly even though it means she won’t be able to see him every day as the 40-km commute is too expensive and taxing.
“It makes my head swim because it’s been so fast. I said to Horne, ‘where were the spaces in homes four or five years ago when I was desperate when dad was under my care?’
“You pour your heart out to the man and then he turns around to stay they’re still closing it. You didn’t even consider any information you heard.”
At the time Barry McFarland, former PC MLA for the Little Bow constituency which includes Carmangay, was interviewed, Horne had not yet been reached for comment. McFarland was reluctant to comment until he knew Horne’s response but he was quick to say the facility should remain open.
“It’s ridiculous. Why consider closing a dementia and Alzheimer unit when there’s never been an empty bed there since 1989 when we converted it?"
McFarland said using the reason of building codes to close a facility is a “red herring” as “current codes change all the time.”
As MLA for the area for a number of years, McFarland says during his time in government there was never any question about keeping the facility open or concerns about the LBCCC.
He has concerns about AHS officials putting pressure on families to move loved ones quickly into facilities that are assisted living, but not specialized care for people with dementia or Alzheimer disease.
“There are no beds available for this kind of thing. I don’t know of any other facility totally devoted to Alzheimer and dementia patients anywhere in Alberta,” said McFarland.
He believes AHS is simply grasping at straws to find a way to save some money and affecting the rural development of a small community by doing so.
“The 40-some odd jobs that we’re losing, that’s like closing one of the biggest industries in Calgary and saying ‘oh well.’”
If the decision to close LBCCC isn’t reversed, McFarland said the PCs will definitely lose his support in the future.

 

Read 57810 times Last modified on Tuesday, 14 August 2012 07:18
Rose Sanchez

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