Rainycrest board awaits ministry decision Three proposals to manage home submitted

Following a directive last month from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the board of management for Rainycrest Home for the Aged here has submitted three management proposals, along with a board recommendation, for ministry approval.
Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk, who chairs the Rainycrest board, said they also received some letters of intent and some applications for the position of administrator at the home.
The current administrator, Jill Colquhoun, will be retiring March 18. It was her retirement that prompted the ministry to step in and request management proposals for the home in a letter dated Feb. 22, Mayor Onichuk said.
After deliberating Monday, the board chose one option to recommend to the ministry from among the three proposals, and are awaiting its approval.
The board did not reveal who submitted the proposals and which one it had recommended.
Should the ministry not approve the board’s recommendation, Mayor Onichuk said it will present one or more alternatives from among the submitted options for the board to act on.
“They must approve anything that happens,” he had noted at a special meeting of the Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. board with municipal leaders from across the district here last Thursday night.
It is known that Riverside is among the three management proposals that were submitted, board chair Craig Sanders confirmed.
“Rainycrest called [Riverside CEO] Wayne [Woods] to answer a couple of questions,” Sanders said. “I don’t know the result of that.”
Riverside also faxed some information of its own to the ministry on Monday, he added.
The Riverside board called the meeting last week to inform local reeves and councillors on the state of merger talks between the two boards, and to encourage the municipalities to pressure the Rainycrest board to put the management of the long-term care facility into the hands of Riverside on an interim basis.
The two boards reached an impasse in their amalgamation negotiations in early February over a governance model.
“The big issue about board structure is largely a case not so much of the structure of the board but how the board operates,” Sanders noted.
The Riverside board, he explained, acts as an overseer. “Our board sets policy. We do not get involved in the day-to-day management of the facilities,” he said.
Riverside CEO Wayne Woods administers the facilities and reports to the board.
“We set policy—as residents and consumers of health care—to ensure the interests of residents and consumers are being taken care of,” Sanders added.
In contrast, the Rainycrest board takes an active role in the day-to-day management of the home.
“The impasse has come because, frankly, our model works managerially and their model doesn’t,” Sanders said. “Our observation is the reason Rainycrest is in trouble is because of the management model they’re using.”
As a result, management at the home often is left powerless, he noted.
For example, Sanders noted Riverside took over payroll at Rainycrest back in August.
“Our experience has been less than positive. The manager we’ve put in place is not able to manage,” he said, citing that staff who are not happy with the decisions of the manager go to the board, which then overrules the manager’s decision.
“There are no clear lines of structure or decision-making,” Sanders argued. “The way it happens at Rainycrest would not ever happen at Riverside.”
The different management styles are reflected in the two facilities’ finances.
“Riverside has a budget surplus year after year after year,” Sanders said, while Rainycrest ended 2004 with a $150,000 deficit (which was covered by reserves).
The two boards also disagree on what the composition of the new board should look like. The Rainycrest board would prefer to have members appointed by district municipalities since they contribute between $1.3 and $1.5 million to the home’s budget every year.
“We don’t feel that is necessary,” Sanders said, noting the Riverside board has members from across the district.
“They may not be municipally appointed, but they do represent the different areas and they try to consider the needs of the entire district,” he said.
In a package presented to those on hand for Thursday night’s meeting, Sanders included a copy of a letter from Riverside to the Rainycrest board dated Feb. 25, 2005, asking the board to pass a motion requesting the ministry take control of the facility and appoint Riverside as operator and manager on an interim basis.
Mayor Onichuk noted the board had to follow the ministry’s directives, submitting all management proposals and applications to the ministry along with a recommendation, subject to approval.
The deadline for submitting management proposals was Friday at 5 p.m.
He stressed any and all proposals would be submitted to the ministry, whether they were from Riverside or Extendicare, a private health care company.
“If there’s no proposal from Riverside, the ministry will not consider it,” he had stressed.
Sanders said while Riverside has been putting together a proposal, they were not prepared to send their managers into Rainycrest with the current operating structure.
“What’s the point of putting a management team in place if they have no authority?” he asked, adding Riverside staff have said they will refuse to work under those circumstances.
“If we submit a proposal to you and you don’t recommend us, it’s for naught,” Woods said to Mayor Onichuk.
“If we don’t have the proposal, we can’t recommend it,” the mayor countered.
Telford Advent, a member of the Riverside board, had stressed the urgency of the situation on Thursday night.
“As municipalities, you have to take control of this,” he warned. “The ministry could force the issue. . . . If you don’t do something locally, someone could step in and do it for you.”
At Thursday’s meeting, Sanders and Woods agreed to submit Riverside’s proposal with the understanding it was the desire of the majority of the municipal leaders at the meeting.
But the proposal would include stipulations regarding the management model at the home, Sanders added.
“There are conditions with the proposal. If [the ministry] can’t accept them, we can’t go forward,” he warned.
At a special meeting Friday morning, Fort Frances town council passed a motion calling on the Rainycrest board to recommend the Riverside proposal to the ministry.
Mayor Onichuk said the ministry likely would announce its decision shortly.
“In our discussions, they assured me they would be responding quickly,” he said.