Municipal leaders recall committment by Ontario to pay Manor fixup costs

by Robin Burridge

LITTLE CURRENT—Several elected municipal leaders support the claim 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.

This is important support for the beleaguered institution that, on paper, is $1.2 million in the red according to its most recent audited statements.

The province is billing the Manor for funding spent in 2006 and 2007 to assist the institution in overcoming identified deficiencies and bringing it back to provincial standards.

At last week’s Manitoulin Municipal Association meeting, this point was reiterated by various mayors and reeves who said they had been present at the meeting with Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) representatives during the 2006/2007 provincial intervention when MOHLTC representatives verbally stated the funds would not have to be paid back.

“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 told The Expositor this week. “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.”

He recalled that Burpee-Mills Reeve Ken Noland had also been at that meeting as well as Northeast Town Mayor Joe Chapman.

“While the Manor was under provincial jurisdiction, everything was going to be frozen,” Mr. Noland recalled at last week’s meeting of the Manitoulin Municipal Association. “My understanding was the province would look after additional costs until the Manor got back on its feet and meanwhile the municipalities would pay the same percentage as they have in the past. The Manor has been under Extendicare’s management for the past few years and the province has said the municipalities would only need to continue to pay the same percentage they had in the past and the province would take care of the rest.”

News of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor’s financial problems has caused concern in the Island community and has resulted in a special meeting of the Manor board with Manitoulin municipal leaders and councils scheduled to take place tonight, (Wednesday, May 30) at 7:30 pm in the hope of finding a solution.

The deficiency was reported in the Manor’s 2011 statement of finances with most of the negative balance resulting from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s (MOHLTC) request for the repayment of over $600,000, based on claims of overpayment in ministry funding to the Manor for the years of 2006 through 2009.

The clawback process (the collection of the imputed overpayment), has already begun as of December 2011, with roughly $9,000 per month being collected over a 20 month period until the ministry has recouped the $190,000 owed.

Manitoulin Centennial Manor board chair, Rev. Mary-Jo Eckert-Tracy, declined to comment to The Expositor last week, but did state that “all would be revealed” at this week’s meeting.

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha told The Expositor last week that he had spoken with Rev. Eckert-Tracy, who indicated to him that the board had a strategy “in the works.”

“She indicated that the board was getting in touch with Sudbury staff of the MOHLTC who may remember the (terms of the) funding of 2006/2007 and can clarify these amounts with Toronto,” explained Mr. Mantha.

Mr. Mantha also stated that he would be meeting with the board chair to further discuss resolving the Manor’s financial problems while on Manitoulin last week for constituency work, however, when contacted Monday, Mr. Mantha’s office told The Expositor that he “hadn’t yet been able to meet with Manor board reps, but will continue to try and touch base with them.” Mr. Mantha’s office also stated that he would be unable to attend this week’s meeting due to prior commitments that require him to be in the Ontario legislature.

As the mayors, reeves and councils have been preparing for the meeting, the Manor’s auditor and Extendicare have been working with the MOHLTC trying to clarify the amount owing and come to a resolution, the results of which may be revealed at Wednesday’s meeting.

Even if this week’s meeting reveals a clear strategy to solve the Manor’s debt, the question of the facility’s sustainability still hangs in the air, a question that could be answered at least in part the next phase of the proposed Continuum of Care Plan for the Manor as well as an additional revenue stream.

The Continuum of Care Business Plan is a study previously commissioned by the board, with funding assistance provided by the Northeast Town, to explore ways to make the Manor more self-sufficient and address the rising needs of the Island’s aging population.

The 37-page study outlines how changes could be made to the Manor by adding a 4,400 square metre addition onto each existing floor, creating apartments and assisted living units to provide supportive homes for the aging population on Manitoulin and with financial savings for the Manor.

In March, the Manor board accepted a tender from KPMG to develop a detailed financial analysis and operational plan for the proposed expansion of the facility outlined in the Continuum of Care Plan in order to further determine the plan’s feasibility. The first draft of this analysis was to be presented to the Manor board on Tuesday of this week, possibly supporting the plan’s financial feasibility, and this was to be added to the discussion at the Wednesday meeting.

The municipal Manor meeting will take place Wednesday, May 30, at 7:30 pm at the Manitoulin Centennial Manor Chapel. Individuals who wish to attend are asked to enter the Manor through Northeast side of the building, so as not to disrupt the Manor’s residents.