Province closing centre for developmentally disabled

Province says 125 patients from Red Deer's Michener Centre will be moved to community homes.

400 workers will be affected by closure, says union

The provincial government says it is closing down a Red Deer institution for people with developmental disabilities and plans to transfer patients into community homes.

The  closure of the Michener Centre will affect about 125 patients, according to Frank Oberle, Alberta’s Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities.

"The changes that we announced at the Michener Centre, we acknowledge are really gut wrenching for the families and loved ones of people there," said Oberle.

Oberle said the province decided to close the facility, which opened in 1923, after consulting with experts. He said workers will help patients and their families to ease the transition to community homes.

However, opposition parties and the union representing the centre’s workers decried the closure.

"Our bigger concern is we have 50 disabled seniors that they are going to be leaving, and they say they are going to put them in seniors care beds," said Kerry Towle, Wildrose MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.

She worried that some of the patients may end up on a waiting list for long-term care.

"This premier promised not to cut on the backs of Albertans and the backs of the front-line support staff, which is exaclty what she's doing."

Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said the closure will affect 400 workers at the centre.

"The professional services vulnerable Albertans have received at the site for decades by caring and dedicated staff have now been ripped away in a cruel and merciless way," he wrote in a release.

The Michener Centre is set to close in April 2014.