Manor wrestles with staffing issues and budget cuts

Manitoulin Centennial Manor

LITTLE CURRENT—Cuts to provincial funding for the Manitoulin Centennial Manor long term care facility will result in a $75,000 hit to the budget, but since the cuts will largely fall on the institution from August on, the actual funding shortfall for this year will be in the range of $35,000. The Manor anticipates being able to adjust its spending plans to absorb those cuts for this year.

One of the current challenges with the Manor budget has been the number of sick and personal days being taken on the weekends, a topic that is fraught with employee/employer challenges when brought up.

“If you are sick you are sick,” noted Manor manager Tamara Beam. “But every weekend?”

Ms. Beam noted that she has discussed the issue with staff, putting the emphasis on the impact the staffing shortfalls have on other staff and the residents. 

When there is a staff shortage at the Manor, agency personnel are called in to fill the gap, and that staffing comes at a premium that leaves less in the kitty for improving working conditions for staff in general. The financial impact is significant.

“It is a challenging job,” said Mr. Clement of the personal support workers’ duties. “There is also a shortage of supply in general.” There are fewer and fewer students opting into the caring services, he added. “Wage pressures are higher as well.” With funding cuts, nursing homes that have already been under pressure from higher-paying areas of the industry will find even greater challenges in attracting PSWs and other staff. With generally comparatively low wages and a heavy workload, “fewer and fewer are going into the caring professions.”

As for the funding cuts facing the facility, the surprise nature of the shortfalls is bringing its own challenges. “This wasn’t anticipated,” noted Manor advisor Keith Clement of Extendicare, the management consultants for the home. He noted that the home normally anticipates a two percent increase in per diem funding for residents, but the funding has only increased by one percent for the upcoming year.

“Some of the funding (cut) was retroactive to April,” said Mr. Clement.

In order to adjust for the shortfalls, the Manor board has agreed to look at capital projects that were going to be implemented that were not urgent and could be delayed. The Manor board decided to move ahead with the new HVAC system, however.

Mr. Clement noted that the baseline for the 2020 budget will have to wrestle with the full year impact of the changes in funding. “We will try to have that before the board for its consideration by November,” he said. “That will factor in the full $75,000 in the budget.”

As it stands, there is not an anticipated impact on the municipal contributions to the Manor upkeep.

Mr. Clement noted that the Manor does have a reserve fund that can smooth out any short term bumps in the budget, should that prove to be necessary.

Manor board chair Patricia MacDonald noted that while the nursing home could not make any savings from operations, there might be discretionary room in capital to find a balance.

The previous budget also contained a minor buffer against unforeseen expenses that would assist in softening the municipal blow.

“We did put $10,000 into reserves,” she pointed out.

“We may have to dip into reserves to back up the end of the year,” admitted Mr. Clement, who pointed out that there is currently $60,000 in the reserves fund. “There is no reason we couldn’t dip into that to assist, but that’s a board decision. Most of the impact will take place after August 1.”

“Was there any pushback to the cuts?” asked board member Dawn Orr.

“There was a lot of lobbying done by the association before the budget,” said Mr. Clement. “The government was given the numbers and were made aware of the impact that would come from the cuts,” he said. “The government still decided to move ahead.”

The key element in the cuts was that there was no “heads up” that the cuts were coming, noted Mr. Clement. “For the last 15 years our average increase in funding has been in the two percent range,” he said. “There was no reason that we wouldn’t expect two percent again this year—but it was one percent.”

“I think it is very sad that the government has chosen to save money on the backs of the most vulnerable,” said Ms. Orr. “Also to have done it when the budget for this year was already set.”

Board member Dan Osborne noted that while the Manor is currently in a slight surplus position “we are only one emergency expense away from being deep in the hole.”

With the top of the funding thermometer fast approaching on the latest fundraising campaign, fundraising co-ordinator Wendy Gauthier said that she would like to have a new project ready as soon as practical in September. “It is always better to have a project that people can relate to,” she said.

The Manor board will be reviewing and updating its bylaws for the upcoming AGM, but that is largely being done to bring the bylaws into balance with the current reality, such as changes in the name and borders of Island municipalities.

The AGM will take place following the September 19 meeting of the board.