Assisted living group seeks Centennial Manor support

LITTLE CURRENT—At the January board meeting of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor, board members discussed a piece of correspondence from Petra Wall of the Island Senior Living Foundation Committee suggesting a partnership that could create 60 assisted living beds on Manitoulin.

“We have been informed that an optimum number of beds for a nursing home in Ontario is 120 to 128 beds minimum,” Ms. Wall writes. “Perhaps there is an opportunity to add assisted living beds that could potentially dovetail with the Manor’s current 60 beds for more opportunity to increase revenue for the Manor and increase the number of full-time jobs. Any reduction in cost to the Manor will be realized by all Island communities.”

“To the best of our knowledge, and based on a previous article in The Manitoulin Expositor, the Manor was not contemplating adding long-term care beds,” Ms. Wall continues. “Adding assisted living units in partnership with our initiative may be an option to consider. The new units would not be built on the land owned by the Manor, but on land that is currently owned by NEMI next to the Manor on the hill overlooking the North Channel.”

Ms. Wall went on to note a conversation she has had with the local office of Ontario Health (formerly the North East Local Health Integration Network) that recommended her group speak with the Manor board and administration to “explore opportunities for innovative models.”

Currently, the government does not support assisted living facilities that “piggyback” on long-term care homes as the rules for each are quite different. Ms. Wall hinted that the province is looking to change this and might entertain a new working model.

Hugh Moggy, Assiginack representative, asked where the assisted living group’s capital would come from.

Board chair Pat MacDonald pointed to Ms. Wall’s letter which explained that the group had been approved by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to fund 85 percent of the project which would help guarantee the remainder through the bank until a mortgage was in place, but CMHC recently changed its rules and will now only work with groups that are more established, which is why the committee is looking for Manor support, “to make them more appealing to the government.”

Board member Wendy Gauthier asked if the thought is that an assisted living facility would remove some people requiring less care from the Manor’s wait list.

“There is no in-between right now,” Tamara Beam, Manor administrator, told the board. “It could potentially open up beds at the hospital too.”

“It’s a nice thought, but the reality is that it costs a lot of money to live in these facilities,” said Keith Clement, Extendicare senior administrator. “They may wish to stream people where they should be, but many can’t afford the $3,000 or $4,000 (per month housing fees). Have they done the work to show it’s viable? Right now, there is no provincial funding for assisted living.”

“The biggest issue is that the model is ideal, but you’ll still get the people that ‘don’t belong’ (in the Manor) because they can’t afford assisted living,” Mr. Clement reiterated.

Ms. Beam reminded the board that the rules between long-term care homes and assisted living facilities are completely different.

“Unless the buildings are attached, there are no economies of scale,” Mr. Clement said.

Art Hayden, Burpee and Mills deputy reeve, said he did not believe there was an “appetite” from the municipalities to support a standalone project such as this.

Northeast Town councillor Dawn Orr said she thought Ms. Wall should be given a chance to state her case to the board.

“It’s not going to save the municipalities money, it’s going to cost the municipalities money, and there is no money,” said Gore Bay mayor Dan Osborne.

Ms. MacDonald said she didn’t have a “clear sense” of how an assisted living project would benefit the Manor.

“It’s pretty clear why they need you: the CMHC won’t support their mortgage without you,” Mr. Clement offered.

Mr. Moggy said Assiginack would not be supportive.

“If they want support in principle, then that’s one thing,” Ms. MacDonald added.

“We don’t make approvals without municipal approval,” Mr. Hayden said, adding, “I don’t think anyone would disagree that it would be a nice thing to have.”

Mr. Osborne said his fear is that the group alludes to sharing a cost savings, “so what about cost overrides?”

The board agreed to invite Ms. Wall to speak at the next meeting on February 20.