by Robin Burridge
LITTLE CURRENT—Four weeks after the announcement that the Manitoulin Centennial Manor was drowning in an operating deficiency totalling $1,178,318, negotiations between the Manor board and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) to clarify financial claims from the ministry have finally led to a breakthrough, thus halting the government fiscal clawbacks that have threatened the faciltiy’s cashflow as the MOHLTC continues to negotiate with the Manor.
“Our auditor and Extendicare (the Manor’s management company) have been working closely with representatives from the MOHLTC regarding the 2006 to 2009 reconciliations (clawbacks) to try and clarify the amounts owed,” explained board member and Northeast Town councillor Al MacNevin. “MOHLTC has agreed to stop the clawbacks during the discussions and has already agreed the amount from 2009, amounting to $54,259, was incorrect, stating that it was in fact only roughly $21,000 (which they have already collected) and they will be paying us back $300.”
The Manor board learned of the MOHLTC’s first request for financial repayment this past spring when Extendicare explained to the board that they had been working with MOHLTC to resolve discrepancies with the allocation of funding from 2008, amounting to a claimed $190,000. In the interim, however, the MOHLTC had already begun the clawback process, collecting payments in the amount of roughly $9,000 per month, beginning in December of 2011. This was to continue for 20 months until the ministry had recouped the overpaid funds.
To further complicate matters, in May the Manor received several other letters from the MOHLTC, informing the facility of other owed funds amounting to over $400,000 based on claims of overpayment in ministry funding for the years of 2006 through 2009.
“We unfortunately still do not have an answer on the 2008 amount,” added Mr. MacNevin. “We still don’t agree with their position of owing $190,000, however the latest amount is $126,000, though we feel it should be even lower, somewhere in the $30,000 range.”
Despite this news, to which Manor board chair Rev. Mary-Jo Eckert-Tracy said she is “pleased with,” there are still more issues with the clawbacks.
Last month, The Expositor reported that various mayors and reeves on Manitoulin had stepped forward, supporting claims by veteran Centennial Manor board members that money spent in 2006 and 2007 on mandated improvements to the facility would not have to be repaid to the province.
“When the MOHLTC took over the Manor during that time, they proposed that they would bring back the facility to provincial standards,” Billings Mayor Austin Hunt previously told The Expositor. “Myself and others at the meeting several years ago specifically asked the MOHLTC what the proposed cost for these updates would be, and the representatives verbally stated that the MOHLTC would cover the costs.”
However, the Manor board learned last week through Extendicare regional director Keith Clement that, in fact, the province has already forgiven these costs, as promised, and that the money owed to the MOHTC from 2006 and 2007 is due to low occupancy because of several factors.
“The MOHLTC spent what is being estimated at close to half a million dollars in 2007 to bring in nurses, PSWs and other personnel to bring the facility up to compliance,” Mr. MacNevin told The Expositor. “It was clarified at our meeting last week that this money has already been forgiven by the government and that the 2007 clawback total of $174,584 is due to the low occupancy rate of the facility during the province’s takeover, where the number of patients the facility was allowed to admit was limited.”
“The 2006 and 2007 clawback amounts reflect the low occupancy rates during this time due to issues out of our hands,” added Rev. Eckert-Tracy.
Mr. MacNevin explained that the total $319,715 clawback from 2006 is two-tiered with $160,777 from a cash advance the Manor received from the MOHLTC to help operate the facility while work was being done to update the lower level of the building and $158,138 was attributed to occupancy issues.
When the number of residents dwindled, their rooms could not be re-rented until all required improvements to the facility had been made to bring it back up to comply with provincial standards. During that time, the ministry continued to fund the Manor as if it was completely occupied but now this is deemed to be an “overpayment” and is deemed repayable to the government.
“The hard part is it doesn’t matter if the occupancy is 50 individual or 60, you still require the same number of staff,” clarified Mr. MacNevin. “There weren’t any corners that could be cut without cutting the level of care.”
Many community members expressed disappointment at the Manor board’s public meeting with the Island’s municipal leaders which was held last month. Several individuals, including Northeast Town Mayor Joe Chapman, inquired what the board’s plan of action was moving forward. At that time the board had not yet formulated a strategy, however this was addressed by its members at a meeting last week.
“We discussed and developed a two point strategy system consisting of both short and long-term goals,” Rev. Eckert-Tracy told The Expositor. “In the short-term strategies we identified, the first is to continue to negotiate with the MOHLTC to clarify the financial situations and the second is to try and maximize our funding formula through accessing the Manor’s daily activities. We need to ensure the data illustrates an accrete picture.”
As for the long-term strategies the board developed, Rev. Eckert-Tracy explained that, “we are investigating the possibility of increasing beds at the Manor and continuing to look at the proposed Continuum of Care Plan for the future sustainability of the facility.”
Against the backdrop of the Manor’s financial problems, both the councils of Burpee-Mills and the Northeast Town have passed resolutions proposing the potential merger of the 60 bed Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home in Gore Bay (privately owned and operated by Jarlette Health Services) with the 60 bed Manitoulin Centennial Manor (Manitoulin’s municipally-owned Home for the Aged) in order to create “one single sustainable facility.”
Though Rev. Eckert-Tracy would not comment on these resolutions directly, she did express that the board is “considering all options.”
“Everything is on the table,” said Rev. Eckert-Tracy. “We are presently just addressing the financial claims with the MOHLTC and brainstorming additional long-term goals.”
The Manitoulin Centennial Manor will hold its next board meeting, which is open to the public, on July 17 at 1 pm, to be held in the boardroom at the Manor in Little Current.