All parties involved with Manor must cooperate to change ministry’s mind

The meeting on Manitoulin Centennial Manor finances seemed to end inconclusively last week and doubtless most participants, particularly municipal representatives, felt some frustration at the somewhat fuzzy outcome.

The care of the residents and the staff quality has never been an issue during this debate. It’s a given that the priority for staff, administration and the Manor board will always be the best care possible for residents of the facility.

There is another focus, however, where the Manor’s board of directors, municipal officials and the administration must cooperate.

A few years ago, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care identified a fairly substantial list of “deficiencies,” primarily in the Manor building itself, which required upgrading.

The Wikwemikong Nursing Home has also gone through this process and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s policy is to not allow a facility in the process of remedying these identified deficiencies to fill any beds that might fall vacant during the period of the remediation.

Within a two or three year period, because a facility like the Manor or Wikwemikong Nursing Home is dealing with a clientele comprised exclusively of the frail and elderly, this means that the number of residents can decline fairly rapidly simply through the natural course of events in human lives.

At some point before all of the deficiencies were dealt with at the Manor, the occupancy fell from the capacity number of 60 residents to 44 residents simply because the administration was forbidden to fill the empty beds that kept on accumulating.

For the ministry, this policy no doubt ensures that facilities like the Manor and the Wikwemikong Nursing Home move as quickly as possible to remedy identified problems with their buildings so that they can keep their beds full.

In the meantime, however, the people who are still occupying these places have to be looked after, staff wages have to be paid and the heating oil bills keep on coming.

In other words, whether the Manor is 100 percent full or 75 percent full, the cost of its operations are nearly exactly the same.

Except this is not the view that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care takes.

During that period when the Manor repairs were being carried out and when its occupancy rate was forced to drop by the strictures of the health ministry, the Manor was funded as if it were fully occupied.

Since that time, the ministry has done an accounting and has decided that if the Manor was, say, 90 percent occupied but it had been funded as if it were 100 percent full, now the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care wants to “clawback” funds they determined they overpaid during that period.

The clawbacks are for different amounts for the different years the Manor was under the restricting orders so now these “overpayments” are deemed to be owing to the ministry.

Of course they are in a position to not only demand but to also collect the funds they feel they are owed: they simply deduct them from the ordinary ongoing funding that keeps the place going.

This is the time and opportunity for all major players in the operation of Manitoulin’s Municipal Home for the Aged to come together and make a case that the Manor doesn’t run on air and, deficiencies or not, the same bills had to be paid whether or not the place was fully occupied or nearly occupied.

The forgiveness of all, or at least most, of this “overpayment” is an important common cause in which all parties with an interest in the health and longevity of the Manor can easily and enthusiastically participate.

The project is tailor-made for newly elected MPP Mike Mantha where he can immerse himself in an issue that impacts so many people at a number of levels in this important sector of his riding.

Rather than squabble, criticize and act defensively, all parties must cooperate to convince the health ministry that its punitive clawbacks must be reconsidered.