Rainycrest board seeks help from ministry

Two resolutions passed by Rainycrest Home for the Aged’s board of management at a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning indicate a shift in focus from pursuing private management to working with a local health-care provider and seeking help from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
The first motion, moved by Fort Frances Coun. Neil Kabel and seconded by Larry Armstrong, is a clarification of the motion initially passed Nov. 9 in which the board moved to proceed with negotiations on a partnership with Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc.
Riverside board chair Craig Sanders had indicated last week that the wording of this initial resolution was not satisfactory to the ministry.
The new resolution states the Rainycrest board moves to “commence negotiations” with the ministry and with Riverside “with a view to the amalgamation of” the two facilities.
The second motion, moved by Coun. Kabel and seconded by Ron McAlister, states the board will communicate with the ministry “for their assistance in the management of the home.”
Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown, who chairs the Rainycrest board, said both motions were positive steps.
“We want the ministry to make some suggestions on how we can improve the management, if it can be done even better yet for the residents of the facility,” he remarked.
“We’re trying constantly to have quality health care for the residents,” he stressed. “We would like the ministry to help provide us with some guidance.”
Mayor Brown said it was for this same reason the board had sought information from private health-care companies like Extendicare Inc.
“That’s why we were looking at Extendicare—to help with the management of Rainycrest. Right now we’ve put that idea aside,” he added.
Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk, who also sits on the Rainycrest board, said he agrees the decisions from Wednesday’s meeting are positive ones, but noted the board would do what it has to do to ensure quality care for residents.
“It’s a step in the right direction in getting a handle on the administration and the management of the home,” Mayor Onichuk said of the board seeking help from the ministry.
“We’re keeping all the options open because there’s nothing for sure in dealing with the Riverside situation,” he noted.
One of the problems with seeking a partnership with Riverside is the time it would take to arrange, he added.
“What do we do in the interim? We’ve got some serious problems that we need addressed and we’ll do whatever we have to do to get them corrected,” he stressed.
That includes seeking information from private health-care companies.
However, Mayor Onichuk noted the Rainycrest board had never had formal talks with Extendicare, nor any other private corporation.
“The board has never entered any discussions with Extendicare,” he noted. “The board asked for requests for proposals from Riverside and a variety of private operators, and we received a couple.
“We were in the process of reviewing them, then all of a sudden the public debate came out.”
“Our preferred option is Riverside,” Mayor Onichuk asserted. “But that’s not going to stop the board from doing what we need to do to make sure resident care is at the top of the list.
“Notwithstanding staff and municipalities, it’s the board’s responsibility to make sure that care is in compliance with all the ministry requirements, and that’s what we’re doing,” he remarked.
Mayor Brown said the request for help from the ministry would not lead to a takeover of Rainycrest, as occurred last year when admissions there were suspended temporarily.
“We’re just asking to work with the ministry and see if they have some suggestions to help us make some improvements to the management styles,” he said.
Mayor Onichuk noted the ministry itself uses consultants from the private sector.
“The reality is that the ministry may come in and do their own request for proposals and send somebody in like they did before from the private sector,” he said.
When Rainycrest was put into enforcement by the ministry last year, the province sent an individual from the private sector to get the home running according to standards.
“The problem the board is having is it seems to be slipping back,” Mayor Onichuk said. “The issues that we thought were being dealt with and corrected, that people were being educated on, we’re slipping back once again.
“And we don’t want to see resident care deteriorate any more than it is,” he stressed. “First and foremost is the care of the residents.”