PETER CONRADI/Bullet News
Regional cuncillors Monday delayed a vote on the fate of public nursing homes while staff searches out more information.
Council’s audit committee spent nearly three hours to determine that, at least for now, it would not move on any of the Responsive Region Improvement Team (RRIT) recommendations.
A report from the RRIT released last week said the Region’s eight nursing homes should not be closed or sold. Instead, staff suggested doing an detailed efficiency review of the properties and look at the possibility of some consolidation. Three of the homes – Upper Canada Lodge, Gilmore Lodge and Linhaven Home for the Aged – are due for upgrading or redevelopment.
Chris McQueen, who heads the RRIT, warned councillors that the Region can’t just walk away from the long-term care business, and to do so would be costly and complicated.
Provincial rules dictate that if the Region decided to sell its 957 long-term-care beds, they would revert to control of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The Province would then get to decide where those beds should be placed – possibly outside Niagara.
The report also suggested finding buyers for the homes would be difficult since it would mean inheriting unionized staff and higher wages than are paid by privately owned home. Then there is the sensitivity of disrupting the lives of seniors and their families with a potential sale, an argument which would strike at the core of vote-conscious politicians.
Niagara Falls Coun. Bart Maves successfully convinced colleagues on the committee to set aside all of the staff recommendations while dispatching the RRIT back to the drawing board for more research.
“This is a good and fulsome report, but we shouldn’t move too quickly,” said Maves, who asked the RRIT for more feedback from the private and not-for-profit sectors; a more detailed comparison of the way private homes operate versus those run by the Region; and more detail on the cost of transferring homes from the public to private sector.
“I asked for the additional information because I think having that will help in (making decisions on the RRIT recommendations,” Maves added. “Why start down the road with any of those if we are still accumulating information?”
The report recommendations were:
1. That the background study on the long-term care homes be received; and
2. That the Responsive Region Improvement Team (RRIT) recommendation to proceed with an efficiency study/process review with senior services division be approved; and
3. That the RRIT be directed to undertake further review of consolidation options for the regional long-term care homes; and
4. That region council continue provincial advocacy efforts regarding long-term care home funding and address issues with the provincial arbitration process; and
5. That further review of alternate service delivery options, including transfer of service, closure of long-term care homes and outsourcing of operations or support services, not be pursued at this time.
Download complete report here.