Rainycrest outlines deficit woes with council

Almost exactly one year after the ban on admissions was lifted at Rainycrest Home for the Aged, administrators there are struggling to keep the home’s costs in line while keeping the deficit to a minimum.
Representatives from Rainycrest met with the committee of the whole of town council in a special meeting here Monday to discuss the home’s financial situation and possible solutions.
“We are here on a fact-finding mission to find out what our situation is,” Coun. Roy Avis said at the start of the meeting.
On hand for the noon-hour meeting were Rainycrest administrator Jill Colquhoun, director of finance Patricia Crewson, and Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown, who chairs the Rainycrest board.
Mayor Brown noted the recent increase in municipal levies to Rainycrest will not be enough to cover this year’s deficit, which sat at more than $230,000 as of the end of August.
Ant that number is expected to rise to almost $300,000 by the end of the year.
When Coun. Avis asked what the town’s responsibility would be regarding that deficit, Colquhoun replied, “The municipalities are responsible for the deficit at the end of the year.”
“Every day that goes by is more money and more money. This is going to be a huge cost to the taxpayer,” noted Coun. Todd Hamilton.
Both Mayor Brown and Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk said they have been lobbying the provincial government for months about this issue. Many changes also have taken place at Rainycrest over the last year in an effort to curb costs.
“We’ve instituted a lot of changes. It is paying off, but not as quickly as we had hoped,” Mayor Brown said. “We have to get our costs down somehow.”
When the ban on admissions was lifted last September, there were more than 50 names on the waiting list. Now there are more than 70 names on it—despite a large number of admissions in 2004.
“We’ve had 46 or 49 admissions this year. It’s quite high,” noted Colquhoun.
Rainycrest currently has 135 permanent beds, with an additional 10 temporary beds reserved for patients from hospital requiring light to moderate care.
“The criteria for those temporary beds is very rigid,” she said.
Mayor Brown noted Rainycrest originally was built to hold 160 beds, but the ministry has not allocated the other beds to the facility. “That would certainly make our financial problems a lot better,” he remarked.
In 2001, the province allocated 15 interim beds to Rainycrest. The beds were funded for two years until 2003, when the ministry pulled the funding, meaning a loss of $650,000 a year to the facility.
“That has contributed to where we are today,” Colquhoun said.
Crewson explained the ministry’s base funding for Rainycrest is at $113.48 per bed per day. The ministry pays $75.51 of that while the resident pays $37.97 on average.
But the home’s actual expenditures are at $144.98 per bed per day—a difference of $31.50 per day that is not covered.
When multiplied by 145 residents and 365 days per year, that amounts to $1,667,137.50 per year above the ministry’s base funding.
In order to deal with the high operational costs of the home, the board of management has been investigating ways to gain financial stability.
In a letter addressed to district municipalities dated July 19, 2004, the board listed seven possible options, including a “partnership/integration/amalgamation with a health care facility such as Riverside Health Care Facility Inc.,” “identifying interest from the private sector,” or “investigation regarding private-sector contracting the management of the home.”
“Clearly the costs to operate Rainycrest Home for the Aged are one of the highest in the province, the major expense being that of labour,” the letter read.
Colquhoun said Riverside has contracted a consultant to do a feasibility study on a partnership with Rainycrest. The current daytime ratio of staff to residents is 1:10, which is the minimum amount of staff they can have.
“The idea of increasing beds here, I don’t see that happening,” she added.
“I would rather see us stay public than privatize,” noted Coun. Avis.
Mayor Onichuk also said the option of partnering with Riverside was preferable to privatization.
A report on the possibility of such a partnership is expected to be released in the coming months.