by Robin Burridge
LITTLE CURRENT—Good financial news looks to be on the horizon for the Manitoulin Centennial Manor which recently learned that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s (MOHLTC) tight financial clawback schedule threatening the facility’s cash flow, could be extended. This will make the paybacks to the ministry more feasible for the facility.
“It’s not finalized yet, but it looks, through negotiations between Extendicare (the Manor’s management company) and the MOHLTC, that the payment schedule for the $620,299 clawbacks will be extended over a five-year period,” explained Al MacNevin, the Northeast Town’s representative on the Manor board. “Right now, we just have a verbal commitment that we are trying to get in writing, and we are still trying to finalize the 2008 clawback, but it looks like the payments (the money repaid to the MOHLTC from the Manor) will be $10,000 a month instead of the original $30,000 we had been told.”
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 funds owed, amounting to over $400,000 based on claims of overpayment in ministry funding for the years of 2006 through 2009.
The Expositor previously reported that the 2009 amount was resolved through the negotiation process, in addition to the MOHLTC freezing the clawbacks until negotiations concluded.
“The 2009 clawback, amounting to $54,259, was incorrect, and the MOHLTC stated that it was in fact only roughly $21,000 (which they had already collected) and they will be paying us back $300,” said Mr. MacNevin.
As for the recent development, the Manor Board learned from its Extendicare representative, Keith Clement, last month that the MOHLTC had verbally confirmed that the amount owed through the clawbacks would now be collected through a five-year process of $10,000 a month instead of $30,000 over 20 months.
The 2006 and 2007 clawbacks reflected the facility’s relatively low occupancy rates during those periods when the number of residents the facility was allowed to admit was limited as the Manor was in the process of remedying ‘deficiencies’ identified by the MOHLTC.
Mr. MacNevin also explained that the 2008 amount of $190,000 is now $126,000, but the board is unsure if that is a reduced number due to clawbacks that have already occurred or if the figure reflects the negotiations. He stated, however, that the Manor board still, “feels this amount should be lower, somewhere in the $30,000 range.”
“Extendicare feels pretty confident that $620,299 reflects the number the Manor will have to pay, but it could be lower after negotiations. Either way, the $10,000 repayment is much more manageable.”
Mr. MacNevin also added that Extendicare has been working on efficiency coding in order to balance the books, enabling the Manor to be able to afford the $120,000 in annual paybacks.
“There has also been some staff layoffs in the administration portion of the facility and the reduction of hours,” commented Mr. MacNevin,” but we (the board) have been reassured that these cuts will not effect the quality of residents’ care.”
Against the background of these financial troubles, the Northeast Town council requested that Rev. Eckert-Tracy and the members of the Manor board’s financial committee attend a council meeting to answer questions regarding the facility’s financial issues, their plan of action, and what the clawbacks could mean for the town’s annual municipal contribution to the Manor—questions that the Northeast Town did not feel they received answers to during the board’s public meeting with the Island’s municipalities held earlier this summer.
Unfortunately, Rev. Eckert-Tracy and members of the Manor board’s financial committee (Ed Bond and Pentti Palonen) did not attend last month’s council meeting, despite having confirmed that a representative would be present.
“They (the financial committee of the Manor board) did advise me on Tuesday that they hadn’t received confirmation from the town,” explained Mr. MacNevin.
Town CAO David Williamson confirmed that this had not been the case.
“I’m glad to hear that the payment schedule has been renegotiated, but I would have liked to have heard this from a member of the financial committee,” said Mayor Chapman. “The biggest thing that needs to change is the ‘three amigos’ (referring to the financial committee members).
“I don’t have a lot of confidence with the board,” added Councillor Michael Erskine. “Having their fingers in the dike is not good enough. They need to move forward with an economically sustainable solution for the facility (referring to the Manor’s Continuum of Care business plan).
The action of the Manor board’s financial committee led Northeast Town Mayor Joe Chapman to propose a motion asking for the resignations of Rev. Eckert-Tracy, Ed Bond and Pentti Palonen.
“The Council of the Corporation of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands requests the immediate resignations of the provincial representatives (Mary Jo Eckert-Tracy and Ed Bond), and Pentti Palonen from the Board of Directors of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor as the Council of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands has lost confidence in their ability to move the Manitoulin Centennial Manor in a fiscally responsible manner,” reads the motion passed by council with Councillors Michael Erskine, Marcel Gauthier, Christina Jones, Bill Koehler, Al MacNevin, Paul Skippen, Bruce Wood and Mayor Joe Chapman all carrying the motion, while Councillor Dawn Orr voted against it.
“Their action was the last straw in a long series of issues the Northeast Town has had with these individuals,” said Councillor MacNevin.
The Expositor spoke with Rev. Eckert-Tracy regarding the clawback developments and the missed council meeting.
“All I can say is that we are still in further negotiations,” said Rev. Eckert-Tracy regarding the clawback total and the extension of the repayment to the MOHLTC. “As for the meeting, Ed Bond told council to let him know when council was available, and didn’t hear anything back from the town, so there must have been some confusion.”
As for the motion for Rev. Eckert-Tracy, Mr. Bond and Mr. Palonen to resign from the Manor board (the third time that the Mayor has called for Ms. Eckert-Tracy’s resignation), Ms. Rev. Eckert-Tracy said she has “no comment.”
Extendicare is still in negotiations with the MOHLTC and is expected to report on a final clawback number and concrete payback schedule at the Manitoulin Centennial Manor board’s meeting later this month.