Riverside asks municipalities for support

The board of directors of Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. on Thursday night asked municipal leaders from across the district to pressure the Rainycrest board to put the management of the local home for the aged into the hands of Riverside on an interim basis.
But the Rainycrest board asserts only the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has the power to determine who will take control of the home.
In a meeting at La Place Rendez-Vous called by the Riverside board, chairman Craig Sanders said the two boards had reached an impasse in their discussions of amalgamation in early February over the issue of 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.
By 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).
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.
“If the Rainycrest board was to do what we’ve asked them to do, we would report directly to the Ministry of Health,” Sanders noted. “The [Rainycrest] board becomes a lame duck board with no authority.
“That’s what we’re asking the board to do and, in essence, that’s what we’re asking you to do,” he added.
Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk, who chairs the Rainycrest board, noted the decision to pass control of the home to Riverside was not in the board’s power.
“It’s not the Rainycrest board you have to convince on this, it’s the ministry,” Mayor Onichuk said.
The ministry has asked the Rainycrest board to collect and forward any management proposals for the home. The board also must choose one proposal to recommend to the ministry.
“They must approve anything that happens,” Mayor Onichuk noted.
The deadline for submitting management proposals is 5 p.m. today (Friday) while the deadline for Rainycrest’s recommendation is 5 p.m. on Monday.
Mayor Onichuk stressed any and all proposals received 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 stressed.
Sanders said that 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.
In the end, Sanders and Woods agreed to submit Riverside’s proposal today (Friday), with the understanding it was the desire of the municipal leaders at the meeting.
“I think the municipal councillors that are here are saying we should recommend the Riverside solution,” Sanders said to applause.
But the proposal would include stipulations regarding the management model at the home, he added.
“There are conditions with the proposal. If [the ministry] can’t accept them, we can’t go forward,” he warned.
Sanders also asked the reeves and councillors on hand to pass resolutions encouraging the Rainycrest board to recommend the Riverside proposal to the ministry.
Fort Frances town council had a special meeting Friday morning, at which a motion was passed stating the board of management at Rainycrest Home for the Aged approve the Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc.’s proposal to manage and operate the home for the aged—when it has been submitted.
As of Thursday night, the Rainycrest board had received no formal proposals, Mayor Onichuk noted after the meeting. “We have received none to date, but I expect we’ll get some tomorrow [Friday],” he said.
The ministry likely will make its decision very soon after the final deadline, he added.