Recreational therapy to be cut in half at Deer Lodge Centre

The union representing recreational therapists says four units at Deer Lodge Centre will see their full-time therapist cut to part time in January.

'It's an absolute insult, 100 per cent insult to our seniors,' says Bob Moroz

The full-time recreational therapists assigned to four units at Deer Lodge Centre will have their positions reduced to half time. (Google Maps)

The number of recreational therapist positions in the personal care home units at Deer Lodge Centre will be slashed in half starting in January.

Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, said four units at the long-term care centre will see their full-time recreational therapists reduced to half time.

"It's an absolute insult, 100 per cent an insult to our seniors — not only the ones who are veterans, but every senior," Moroz said.

"They have nowhere else to go. They can't simply jump on a bus and go somewhere and do something."

Therapists currently provide programming for the residents in the four long-term units Monday to Friday, five days a week.

The four long-term units currently each have a full-time staff therapist providing programming for residents Monday to Friday, five days a week.

Moroz said with the cuts, the recreational therapists will work three days one week and two days the next, starting in January.
Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, calls the cuts cold hearted. (CBC)

"Even the nursing staff on the unit have to be concerned about this, too, because if people … have nothing to occupy their time, they're generally going to need more care," Moroz said.

"And if there are behavioural issues or cognitive issues and they don't have that diversion and that ability to go and exercise their minds with something productive … are we going to see those behaviours change? Are we going to see some of the cognitive issues change and intensify if they don't have that outlet and the ability to have a little bit of dignity?"

The changes are in response to an anticipated funding drop from Veterans Affairs in 2019 to match the reduced number of veterans in care as they age and pass away, as well as a directive from the province to balance Deer Lodge's budget, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in a written statement.

'Absolutely angering'

Veterans Affairs Canada provides supplementary staffing at Deer Lodge, which was originally a convalescent hospital for veterans of the First World War, to enhance services such as recreational therapy based on the number of beds occupied by veterans, the WRHA statement said.

At the time the agreement was made, there were 155 beds occupied by veterans.

"While beds for veterans remain available, the number of veterans occupying those beds has significantly decreased over recent years to only 65, and the availability of funding for these positions has been adjusted accordingly," the statement said.

The cut to recreational therapy will create approximately $123,000 in savings this fiscal year.

Moroz called the savings minor and the cuts cold hearted.

"It is just so absolutely angering to me that we think that this is OK. These are tiny amounts of money that they are trying to save and they are nickel and diming it on the back of our seniors on something as simple as what they consider entertainment, but from the therapeutic standpoint, there's huge value to it," Moroz said.

Staff are being given the option to continue to work part-time in the unit they are currently in, or they can choose to bump other recreational therapists in other programs in other parts of Deer Lodge.