District leaders invited to health care forum here Future of Rainycrest among agenda items

The new president of the Rainy River District Municipal Association has called a special meeting here this Saturday for elected reps to discuss pressing health care issues.
“It’s to paint a picture of what’s going on, and get the input from the president’s chair to ensure all elected officials are aware of what’s coming down the pipe and the potential impact,” Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk explained yesterday.
The agenda has not yet been finalized, but the main four issues up for discussion will be the Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), the local Family Health Team, Rainycrest Home for the Aged, and land ambulance services.
Though he had hoped to bring in government reps to speak to these various issues, Mayor Onichuk admitted he’s had little success so far.
“I want to bring in all these so-called experts representing the government, and so far I have none. What are they afraid of?” he wondered.
Despite the lack of speakers, Mayor Onichuk said the meeting will go on—hopefully with some local experts on various topics.
“I think it will open up discussion in every single municipality in this district, and that’s what we need,” the mayor argued. “Elected officials have to make a lot of important decisions and we need to be on the same page.”
The meeting will focus on facts and realities, he stressed.
“I’m not interested in anybody’s hype anymore,” Mayor Onichuk said. “I’m interested in the legislative and the responsibility aspects. What’s happening, how does it affect us, and how do we react as municipalities?”
The meeting will take place Saturday from about 10 a.m.-4 p.m., most likely at the local Legion. It’s open to all elected municipal reps in Rainy River District.
Members of the Rainycrest board of management also will be on hand.
That board last met Friday, when it discussed a request from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for a six-month extension on its control order on Rainycrest.
“Basically, this would be to allow an independent operational review to be conducted on the governance, financial, and care systems at Rainycrest,” ministry spokesperson Dave Jensen had told the Times on Monday afternoon.
But as first reported in Tuesday’s Daily Bulletin, Mayor Onichuk, who chairs the Rainycrest board, said he has reservations about the request.
“We were told by Tim Burns [director of the Long-Term Care Homes branch of the ministry] that they were in the process of an operational review in June,” he said, adding it was scheduled to be completed in January.
“You did your job, now it goes back to the municipalities,” the mayor argued.
Instead, the board passed a resolution Friday requesting that effective March 18, 2006, Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. continue with its professional services at the home until a permanent arrangement could be agreed upon.
The board then passed a second motion to enter into discussions with the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board for the management of Rainycrest, “as per their amended proposal, received Feb. 23, 2006.”
Both Riverside and the DSSAB—as well as Extendicare, a private health care company—had expressed an interest last March in running the home.
While the DSSAB submitted an extensive and detailed proposal, including programs and costs, Riverside only has submitted a letter expressing its interest, Mayor Onichuk said.
Last March, the ministry decided to take control of the home—for a period of one year, according to the Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act—and appoint Riverside as interim administrator until a permanent solution could be found.
Jensen said the ministry recognizes the “significant progress” made at the home over the last year, but said “there’s still a need to look at long-term solutions in terms of governance and management.
“We just wanted to move forward co-operatively,” he added.
“The board of management has said the district municipalities will take over the home again. That will change nothing at the home,” Mayor Onichuk said.
“As for the long-term, the board of management is prepared to discuss that with Riverside and the DSSAB,” he added.
The minutes of Friday’s Rainycrest board meeting likely will be approved this week, he continued, at which time all resolutions will be forwarded to district municipalities as well as the ministry.
Mayor Onichuk said he plans to hold a second health-care meeting for the general public at a later date.