Manor AGM reveals good news funding story

Manitoulin Centennial Manor

LITTLE CURRENT – There were plenty of smiles at the annual general meeting of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor, especially when it came time for the financial reports. Over the past several years the release of the annual general meeting financial report has been greeted with some small measure of dread, and this year’s shortfall due to provincial budget cutbacks was shaping up to be no exception, but an eleventh hour phone call from the ministry turned that around on a dime, or perhaps more accurately, $75,000.

Extendicare advisor Keith Clement delivered the financial report, noting that the Manor’s books are “currently in a surplus position. We would like to do better,” he admitted. “Year-to-date, at the end of August, we are at $80,672 when we had anticipated $143,198.”

Mr. Clement said that there were “various reasons” for the drop in financial position, primarily the need to fill in for missing staff with more expensive agency personnel. “That is the majority of our issue,” he said. The staffing shortfalls come in the area of personal support workers, a situation that many nursing homes and other health care providers are also facing, he noted. “It is everywhere, I assure you.” Mr. Clement shared that the topic was a centre of concern at a recent meeting of colleagues held in North Bay.

But had it not been for the reversal of funding cuts from the Ministry of Health, the outlook would not be anywhere near as rosy.

“We anticipated an annual shortfall of $75,000,” shared Manor Administrator Tamara Beam. Given that the news of the cutback arrived part way through the financial year, the Manor was left scrambling to backfill the $35,000 hole that would have left for this year. The board had intended to cover a large part of that shortfall by delaying a number of planned upgrades to the facility—although the board had decided to move ahead with a new heating and air conditioning system, paying in two installments spread across two fiscal periods.

The Manor will now be in a position to put in place most of the renovations that were originally planned for this year as well as being able to put away the $10,000 per year into reserves for unforeseen expenses. That fund is now topped up to $80,000. 

On a question from Billings Mayor Ian Anderson, Manor chair Patricia MacDonald noted that the reserve fund allocation did not have a sunset clause, although the decision to put those funds into reserves is something decided annually at the board. “We don’t have a maximum in mind,” confirmed Ms. MacDonald. She said the Manor did have to go back to the municipalities in recent years to fund unanticipated major repairs prior to implementing the reserve allocation.

“I think we are on the right path,” said Ms. MacDonald, who pointed out that the board operates on as fiscally prudent a path as possible, keeping in mind resident comfort and safety.

Among the items being planned for refurbishment are the refrigeration units in the home’s freezer units, which are nearing end of life. Securing the safety and security of the Manor residents’ food supply being paramount.

“I think we are in a better position for planning now,” said Burpee Mills representative Art Hayden. “Thanks to the funding changes, it has been very helpful.”

“In terms of the auditor report, the position of the Manor is the best that the auditors have seen in years,” said Mr. Clement.

Still, the Manor board cannot let down its guard, pointed out Ms. MacDonald. “The auditor did caution us not to relax,” she said. 

“It can easily reverse, as we have been finding out,” agreed Mr. Clement.

Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin asked if the funding reprieve was in place only until this coming March, to which Mr. Clement replied in the affirmative. Mayor MacNevin asked if that meant that “the Manor will have to guess if funding will remain?”

Mr. Clement said that, in his experience, in the best of times any budget is based on managers’ best guesses. “We will budget at that extra amount,” he said. “No way would they budget differently without formal assurances. We will be hopeful, but the budget we will present to the board will show revenue at $55,000 less than in 2020.”

The Manor’s quality indicators are well within Ministry of Health parameters, according to the latest inspection reviews. That includes fewer falls than ministry guidelines, lower use of anti-psychotic drugs (which in part may be connected to fewer falls). 

Many of the statistics recorded for the ministry and their relation to the guidelines can be problematic for small nursing homes, like the Manor, where a single individual falling a couple of times can really impact the percentages. The result is that the statistics posted online do not necessarily accurately reflect the reality on the ground. “This is public knowledge,” said Ms. Beam, “but they don’t get the whole back story.”

Currently the Manor is sitting with 37 people on its waiting list, reflecting the fact that it needs more beds.

The Manor constitution was reviewed, with a number of housekeeping matters proposed to bring it up to date, most notably the makeup of the municipalities who support the Manor following amalgamations.

Board member and fundraising chair Wendy Gauthier provided an update for the AGM. The current $100,000 campaign to change the carpeting in the facility to non-slip flooring and the equipment to clean and maintain those floors is nearing its goal. Ms. Gauthier noted that the original plan for the replacement spanned from 2020 to 2025, and was well ahead of its timeline. “We are within sight,” she said, pointing to the significant contributions from the Northland Power road use agreement fund and a sizable donation from Extendicare.

Last year’s Tree of Life Campaign raised an astounding $35,000, she said, with major support from Island businesses. “I appreciate the support,” she said, adding that individual sponsors and donors play a major role in the fundraising campaign’s success.

Since the Manor is largely funded by the municipalities, and by extension taxpayers, that contribution helps to keep municipal taxes down, she noted. 

“I appreciate this annual update,” said Mayor MacNevin, who added that his council receives regular updates from its member on the board. “This year’s report has been very good.” He added that Ms. Gauthier and her committee “deserve a lot of credit.”

Ms. MacDonald closed the meeting by announcing that there is currently a vacancy on the Manor board due to the resignation of Aurel Rivet, who has moved out of the district.