Manor board must endorse continuum-of-care studies

Yes, it is quite true that the role of the board members of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor, Manitoulin Island’s municipally-operated Home for the Aged, is to ensure that the sixty-some residents of the Manor are appropriately cared for, that the facility’s nursing and support staff is appropriate to residents’ needs, that the building is well maintained and administered, that management recommendations and suggestions are carefully considered and that all of this-and more-is undertaken within the constraints of an annual budget, 8.2 percent of which is provided by Manitoulin’s municipalities.

It’s a large task, particularly in consideration of the political overtones that come automatically when a portion of the operating budget is provided directly from Manitoulin municipal taxpayers’ wallets.

For some time now, Manitoulin Centennial Manor has been carrying a substantial operating deficit (just over a half-million) and this will be an additional and abiding concern to those volunteers tasked with the oversight of the facility.

But simply because of all of these concerns, certainly it is time to “think outside the box” about what could be possibly added to the Manor and in what way these additions would benefit its core function.

The Town of Northeast Manitoulin and the Islands, through its representative on the Manor board, has been attempting for two months to have the board accept a report the municipality had commissioned (and paid for with the support of the rest of the Island municipalities), on the possibility of using the Manor facility as a base on which to add a range of other types of accommodation for seniors. The Manor could become a vital part of a continuum of care model whereby seniors could move to areas in the facility where increasingly more nursing care was provided when it was needed.

An issue at the last two Manor board meetings has revolved around whether the board would “accept” the report or whether it would “receive” it.

The majority of board members have chosen the “receive” option, fearing that should they “accept” the report, the implications of such a motion might commit them to carry on with the suggested project.

It does not seem that accepting a report implies anything other than one party physically handing over a document to another party. These types of semantic disagreements, however, are not unpopular.

It is unfortunate that Rev. Mary-Jo Eckert-Tracy has chosen to resign as chair of the Manor board in the face of this disagreement. She is a capable person who has lived on Manitoulin for many years where her role as a United Church minister in the central Manitoulin region will have given her a unique perspective on precisely the concerns and possible remedies the consultant’s report addresses. Hopefully she will reconsider her decision to resign the chair’s position and her Manor board colleagues will support her in this.

On the face of it, the close examination of a continuum of care model, with the Manitoulin Centennial Manor as its focus, can only be a useful activity for all of Manitoulin Island.

If the Manor, for example, were to utilize its kitchen to provide meal services for individuals or couples living in assisted living facilities in an adjacent or contained facility that was part of the propsed continuum of care, this would be practical on a number of fronts: at the very least, the Manor should derive income from providing and selling meals, and this is only one very simple example of a potential sharing of resources.

Assisted living services are not available in any Manitoulin community (except for the Tender Love and Care (TLC) unit, privately owned and operated in Little Current) but if, in the course of time, further studies bear out the original premise and the Manor becomes the focus of a continuum of care for seniors, then an expanded Manor will become an Island-wide resource.

If the Manor board does not choose to support the expansion of services to include a wider range of clients, such an action will appear to be taking on the traditional “east versus west” Manitoulin conflict that has plagued and bogged down so many potentially valuable Island-wide activities over the years.

The Manitoulin Centennial Manor happens to be located in Little Current-and there was a great deal of behind-the-scenes east versus west deal making 45 years ago to try to have it located elsewhere on Manitoulin so the notion of this kind of conflict, should it become part of the process, is not unique to the Manor’s history.

But, as previously stated, the Manor is located in the community of Little Current and because of its unique two-storey design and the substantial amount of surrounding real estate it owns, it is really the only place that could be expanded into a continuum of care facility, that could be accessed by residents from Tehkummah to M’Chigeeng to Mindemoya to Meldrum Bay (and all points in between) just as the core “home for the aged” is now.

Without committing itself to anything, the Manor board can and should enthusiastically endorse and support more studies that will consider the viability of an expanded Manitoulin Centennial Manor that could provide a much wider array of accommodation services to the citizens of Manitoulin Island. There is nothing to be lost in supporting such an exercise, even if that means “accepting” the initial report as a gesture of good faith in the project, but much to be gained if it proves that an expanded Manor is good for Manitoulin people.