Towns back Riverside to manage Rainycrest

Representatives from district municipalities passed a resolution Saturday supporting negotiations with Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. to become the permanent administrator of Rainycrest Home for the Aged.
The motion—originally passed by the Township of Alberton—was passed at a special meeting of the Rainy River District Municipal Association in Barwick, with nearly 40 members in attendance.
Alberton’s motion originally was to be discussed at the RRDMA’s annual general meeting back in January, but was withdrawn from the agenda as members feared the issue would overtake the entire meeting.
The original motion was amended to reflect the current situation, in which the Rainycrest board of management has agreed to a 90-day extension of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s control order on the home, during which time Riverside will continue to manage it on an interim basis.
The ministry’s control order was set to expire March 18.
The ministry has hired an independent consultant, Scott Rowand, to study the issue, talk to local stakeholders, and provide a report and recommendations to the ministry.
Rowand already has spoken to the Rainycrest board of management, all district mayors and reeves, Rainycrest union reps, the former and current administrators at Rainycrest including Kevin Queen, the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board’s CAO and board chair, Riverside’s CEO and former board chair, members of the Rainycrest family committee, as well as other staff from the home.
“There are lots of perspectives and I have reached no conclusion,” Rowand told RRDMA members Saturday in Barwick before the vote on the resolution. “I’m trying to get the facts out to the best that I understand them.”
Though he has been briefed by compliance officers at the home, Rowand said he has not spoken yet to ministry reps.
“I deliberately did not want to speak to the ministry until I spoke to you folks,” he said Saturday.
Prior to the amended Alberton resolution being discussed, RRDMA members reviewed another option—that of asking the province to assume full control of the home, without funding from local municipalities.
The proposed motion cited the high costs of provincial downloading as one of the reasons for the move.
Fort Frances Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft spoke against the motion, saying if the ministry were to take full control of the home, it could decide to move beds to Thunder Bay or close it entirely.
If district municipalities forfeited all control of the home, they would have no say in those decisions.
“Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. It may come true,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft warned.
“Personally, I would like to pay some levy towards Rainycrest because I’d like to have some say,” agreed Emo Reeve Russ Fortier. “I would be uncomfortable turning over the care of our senior citizens to someone in Toronto.”
Lake of the Woods Mayor Val Pizey moved that the RRDMA put off all resolutions until Rowan had completed his report. That motion was defeated.
“Scott is here to gather data. He’s here looking for something to come out of this today to add to his report,” Reeve Fortier said.
“Emo’s position is that we would support Alberton and we would support Riverside taking over the management of Rainycrest,” he added. “If we let it go, someone else will make the decisions for us.
“I think the Rainycrest issue can be solved.”
The motion to ask the province to take over full control of the home on a permanent basis also was defeated.
La Vallee Reeve Emily Watson said Monday the RRDMA executive had met some weeks prior to Saturday’s meeting to discuss the agenda.
“We agreed in principle to a couple of things,” she said. “The first was that there was a problem with Rainycrest . . . and that Riverside has turned that situation around.
“Everyone was happy with what Riverside had done.”
The second issue was the need for some kind of municipal representation on any board with the power of taxation.
“Everybody agreed to those things,” Reeve Watson noted.
During discussion on the resolution to pursue negotiations with Riverside, Mayor Pizey expressed concern that it did not address the issue of taxation.
“I’m really concerned about taxation without representation,” she remarked.
“This is not giving any direction to the board of management or the ministry regarding finance or governance,” she added. “What conditions? What terms? It’s not detailed enough.”
“I think it comes back to that very issue—the right to tax,” said Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk, who also is president of the RRDMA. “The bottom line for the board of management is taxation.”
The Riverside board, though made up of representatives from across the district, is not a municipally-elected board like the Rainycrest board of management.
Some RRDMA members have expressed concern over handing over the right to tax to a board that does not answer directly to the public.
But despite some opposition, the motion supporting Riverside passed 22-16.
Reeve Watson, who sits on both the Riverside board and the local DSSAB board, said she was happy with the RRDMA’s decision.
“We’ve supported that from the beginning,” she said Monday. “Riverside has long-term care beds in Emo, in Rainy River. They have a lot of experience and experienced staff who have been doing long-term care for a number of years.”
The ministry took control of the home in March, 2005—largely due to a high number of incidents of non-compliance there. In recent months, there have been no reported compliance issues, Reeve Watson noted.
“It’s wonderful news. It means the people there are safe. They’re being provided with quality care,” she enthused. “The evidence speaks for itself.”
The issue of taxation and representation on the Riverside board is one that can be dealt with at the negotiating table when the time comes, Reeve Watson added.
“That has never been an issue from the Riverside point of view. There is a seat open now, being held open for that specific reason,” she said.
The only district municipality not represented on the Riverside board is Atikokan, which has its own hospital. But Atikokan pays the second-highest levy towards the operation of Rainycrest.
The RRDMA’s decision will be communicated to Rowand, who will take it under advisement as he prepares his report for the ministry.
Rowand was optimistic the issue could be resolved quickly. “I hope to have a memorandum of understanding signed by May 15,” he said.