Riverside wants to keep running Rainycrest Looking ahead to amalgamation

Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. last night held an information meeting with representatives from district municipalities to ask for their support in allowing the organization to continue running Rainycrest Home for the Aged—with a view to an eventual amalgamation.
“We’re trying to convince you that Riverside is doing a good job in managing your home,” said Craig Sanders, past president of the Riverside board. “Riverside wants to move forward toward amalgamation.”
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care took control of Rainycrest on March 18, 2005, with permission of local municipalities, and appointed Riverside as interim its administrator.
According to the Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act, the ministry may retain control of the home for up to one year, at which time a next step must be taken.
Sanders said Riverside sees four possible options.
The first would be for the ministry to return control of the home to the municipalities to carry on as before, with a board of management made up of elected officials from district municipalities.
The second would be for the district municipalities to ask the ministry to appoint an operator—for example, Riverside—for another year.
“That could go on indefinitely, as long as the municipalities said it’s OK,” Sanders noted.
A third option would be for the ministry to ask permission of the Lieutenant- Governor of Ontario to seize control of the home and choose its own operator.
The fourth option—“the one Riverside favours,” said Sanders—would be for the municipalities to ask the ministry to appoint Riverside as operator for another year, and then to begin negotiations for an amalgamation of the facilities.
The municipal reps should think of amalgamation in terms of a “single governance model,” rather than the full incorporation of Rainycrest into Riverside.
Rainycrest would still exist, Sanders stressed, and have separate financial records.
Sanders and Riverside CEO Wayne Woods presented the financial documents for Rainycrest to show how much had changed in less than a year.
For instance, when the ministry took control March 18, the home had a deficit of $256,000, which had accrued since the beginning of the year.
But then from mid-March to the end of November, that deficit only grew by $25,000 to $281,000.
The final year-end deficit has not been calculated yet, but Sanders estimated it would be more than $300,000.
However, the deficit was the result of many one-time payments, such as a $217,000 retropay to the Ontario Nurses’ Association. Another $16,000 was spent to recruit employees as well as $22,000 for an audit.
“We would have had an $80,000 surplus if you don’t count the one-time pay-outs that are not likely to recur,” Woods explained.
Two years ago, district municipalities were handed a 12 percent increase in the levy for Rainycrest—despite large transfers out of reserves. Without those transfers, the increase would have been more than 20 percent, Sanders noted.
For the coming year, Woods and Sanders said only a one percent increase likely would be needed to run the home.
“When we set this budget, we set it pretty damn tight,” Woods remarked. “I’m trying to hold it to zero.”
The sharing of resources between Riverside and Rainycrest has made the reduction in operating costs possible.
“About half-a-dozen departments are shared between the two,” Woods explained, including payroll, accounting, a nurse manager, and purchasing.
“We do all the purchasing for Rainycrest. We can get better prices because of our volumes,” he noted.
Besides finances, there also is the issue of patient care.
Sanders said back on March 18, the ministry’s review of the home was 58 pages long, with hundreds of examples of non-compliance.
The most recent review, dated Jan. 4-5, 2006, is only two pages long, with no new areas of non-compliance or unmet standards.
“I have no problem in saying the facts speak for themselves,” Sanders noted.
“Riverside wants to move forward toward amalgamation, but there are some things in our mind that have to change,” he added.
The first is that negotiations could not take place between the Riverside board and the Rainycrest board.
“We cannot be prepared to work with the current board of management to move forward,” he said. “It will not proceed, I can tell you that bluntly.”
In the months preceding the provincial takeover, Riverside and Rainycrest board members met several times to discuss a possible amalgamation.
“Conversations broke down in a blaze of glory because the Rainycrest board of management didn’t see things in the way the Riverside board of management did,” Sanders said.
The differences of opinion largely were over the question of taxation from a board without municipal representation. And that issue still would have to be tackled in amalgamation negotiations.
Robin Wright, chair of the Riverside board, suggested some further steps for municipalities to take.
He asked that they create an agenda item at the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual general meeting coming up Jan. 28 in Bergland to determine what the municipalities want to do with Rainycrest.
Some people on hand for last night’s meeting noted the agenda for that meeting already was set. But Morley Reeve Gary Gamsby, who serves as president of the RRDMA, noted it was the intention of the current executive to have a separate meeting to discuss the issue shortly after the annual meeting.
Wright also asked the municipalities inform Riverside of their intended course of action by Feb. 28.
If it is the will of the district to begin negotiations for an amalgamation, he asked that they establish a committee to initiate such discussions.
Those discussions then could begin among Riverside, Rainycrest, the municipal reps, and the ministry.