Manor holds first meeting with municipal leaders since pandemic

Manitoulin Centennial Manor

MINDEMOYA—The first meeting held between the Manitoulin Centennial Manor board and Island municipal leaders since the start of the pandemic was held on Wednesday, June 15 and proved to be a low-key affair, highlighted by primarily positive news on what had transpired over the intervening two years.

The meeting began with Manor board chair Pat Macdonald introducing the administrative staff in attendance to the two non-board municipal leaders (Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin and Gore Bay Councillor Jack Clark) who attended the meeting. Don Cook, the Manor administrator, had been hired during the pandemic, while Manor director of care Sylvie Clark and Extendicare operations manager Keith Clement have been familiar faces over the past few years.

Board members in attendance included Art Hayden, Dan Osborne and Dawn Orr, as well as the aforementioned board chair Ms. Macdonald.

Ms. Macdonald reported that the Manor has had tremendous staff turnover through the past two years. “These have been difficult times in many ways,” she said, noting that could also be said for many other nursing homes across the province. But unlike many other homes, the Manor has been spared outbreaks of COVID-19 among its vulnerable residents.

At any given time, some Manor staff have tested positive, providing significant challenges in maintaining staff levels, but those incidents have been kept from impacting residents otherwise.

The Manor continues to have challenges in meeting the necessary staff levels to provide the new standards of care mandated by the province, but Ms. Clark reported that there have been positive developments recently on that front with the hiring of one nurse and the possibility of a second coming on board soon.

The Manor work environment and Island community have proven to be strong assets in attracting staff to the home, but like most other long-term care facilities across the province, challenges remain, not least of which is the disparity between the pay rates that can be offered by nursing homes to attract staff.

“Those rates are out of our hands,” pointed out Ms. Macdonald, referencing the collective bargaining contracts that set those pay rates. Hospitals and private staffing agencies are able to offer much higher rates of pay.

Among the “out-of-the-box” approaches being taken by the Manor has been the renting of a house across from the home to house out of town agency staff brought in to fill the gaps in the staffing roster. Those agency staff come at a significant cost to the Manor for the aforementioned reasons.

On the brighter side of the ledger, as a municipally run home, the Manor is able to fundraise to supplement residents’ lifestyle and comfort, with the Tree of Lights campaign having proved incredibly successful, thanks largely to the efforts of former board member and fundraising co-ordinator Wendy Gauthier and the generosity of the community.

In addition to major dining room upgrades and renovations to décor that are largely complete, the Manor is also undertaking a major courtyard project that will provide a space for residents and family members to gather outdoors.

Municipal leaders learned that the finances of the Manor are in solid shape and the home is at full capacity (with four beds still being held back to provide isolation should a resident come down with COVID). The government funds those beds as part of the pandemic strategy.

Ms. Macdonald noted that the Northeast Town is providing assistance in securing grants and other funding opportunities through its economic development team.

Municipal leaders learned that there are no plans to expand the capacity of the Manor at this time, although there had been some suggestions to do so in the past but the political will to do was lacking at the time.

The Manor now has an updated computer system in place, with wifi through the building and there is hope that promised increases in broadband internet access slated for the fall will assist in improving connectivity between the home and Extendicare’s administrative team.