Blog | January 24, 2013

By Susan Zielinski, Red Deer AdvocateSymphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge has announced it is cancelling its funding agreement to provide 49 care beds for Alberta Health Services just as the seniors facility prepares for Friday’s strike and lockout.Symphony Senior Living CEO Lisa Brush said all affected residents and families were alerted on Tuesday — the same day the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees announced its 130 health-care workers and staff at the facility would go on strike on Friday at 1 p.m.Symphony has also served AUPE with a lockout notice for Friday.“We are looking at transitioning out of the Alberta Health Services-funded beds. It’s not a sustainable business model given the wage demands by the Alberta Union of Public Employees,” said Brush on Wednesday.With only 49 AHS-funded beds, Symphony says it can’t capture economies of scale similar to other fully-funded operators.“We’ve had these discussion with them since last fall trying to come to a resolution that would work for everybody to maintain the beds. It does a great community service to have these beds.”Symphony, a privately owned and operated seniors living facility located at 3100 22nd St., has 152 suites with a total of 157 residents. These include 40 assisted living beds for dementia patients, four assisted living beds for non-dementia patients and five transition beds for people coming out of hospital, all of which are funded by AHS.Brush said residents don’t have to worry about immediate eviction.“It’s not happening tomorrow. We are going to transition over a year period. We’ll do it slowly. We’ll assess situations. We’re going to be very focused on the resident.”Supportive living residents also have the option to remain at Symphony at private service cost, she said.Brush estimated assisted living for a non-dementia resident would cost between $3,800 to $4,500 per month for a basic studio at basic care levels.R. Dean Cowan, whose wife Doreen, 65, has been a supportive living Alzheimer’s patient at Symphony since last April, called the situation a crisis.“They’re taking 44 beds out of the market place. Right now your wait time in the province of Alberta to get a bed is up to 18 months,” said Cowan, 65, of Red Deer.He also chastised Alberta Health Services for not keeping up with the demand for beds.Cowan is not sure if his wife will even be able to stay in Red Deer.“I visit my wife twice a day, in the morning and afternoon. I don’t know how I’m going to do it if my wife is out of town.”His wife, who has progressed to later-stage Alzheimer’s, and other dementia patients will not react well to moving, he said.“This is their home. This is their life. You take them out of that environment and put them into another environment, it is a very detrimental situation.”Staff at Aspen Ridge joined AUPE in March 2011. Bargaining began in September 2011. Mediation began a year later and ended in November 2012.AUPE is arguing for industry standard wages for health-care staff. But Symphony says wage parity with a nursing home or hospital is unreasonable as Symphony is an independent and assisted living facility.Cowan said Symphony has had a very high staff turnover rate because of its lower wages. Thankfully, a stable core of wonderful workers have remained, he said.“I’m 100 per cent anti-union. But in this case I am extremely supportive of the workers.”He said Symphony is not being socially responsible — which he believes is something companies can do while earning a reasonable profit.By Susan Zielinski, Red Deer [email protected]This article was published in the Red Deer Advocate on January 24, 2013. Read the full article on the Red Deer Advocate website.