Personal-care home forced to close

Owner blames lack of financial consideration from government

Bonnie Belec
Published on January 16, 2014
Neville’s Special Care Home in St. Mary’s has begun moving its residents to new homes. After 20 years in the business, operator Paul Neville says he has no option but to close. He blames a staffing and financial model  introduced by the provincial government. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Neville’s Special Care Home in St. Mary’s has already begun moving its residents to other homes in the area.

The personal-care home, which has been operating in the rural community for about 20 years, is closing due to a lack of financial consideration from the government, owner Paul Neville said.

“How would you feel?” he asked The Telegram Wednesday.

“If, after 20 years, during the last six to eight years government has eroded any possibility of you selling your business or making any money at it and downloaded all kinds of work on us and haven’t compensated us for it?” he said by telephone from his home in St. Mary’s.

“I don’t know if it’s by design or by accident, but they’re certainly rooting us out of business and that’s pretty much all I want to say on it today.”

The executive director of the Personal Care Home Owners Association says with approximately 95 personal-care facilities providing Level 1 and 2 care to about 4,000 seniors across the province, there has to be a partnership formed with the government.

“If we can get the correct formula out of government, I believe we can have a sustainable industry for every size of personal-care home,” Shaun Lane told The Telegram Wednesday.

He said the personal home care industry has a great structure that can be built upon, but the challenge some owners face dates back six and seven years, when the government made major changes to the homes’ operations manual.

“We have since been told by the government that when it came out, the financial implications of those changes were not considered,” said Lane, who had two meetings on Tuesday with government representatives.

“So homes like Neville’s begin to operate under a new staffing and financial model that really hurts them, and after a  while there’s only so long you can go before you say, ‘We can’t continue under this financial burden,’” he said.

The association understands the need for government regulation, Lane said, and it’s welcomed, but problems arise when staffing and financial models don’t work for everyone.

For example, the staffing requirements for smaller homes are the same for some of the larger ones.

Lane said in a personal-care home with 22 residents, the owner has to have two staff in the building during the night — the same number required for a facility with 59 residents.

“This is really what is strange, with some of this math. If I have 22 people in a small rural community facility, I’m forced to give a one to 11 ratio on my night shift. Well, OK, that’s great.

“But if I have one in a larger setting with 44 people, I’m allowed to have one staff per 22 residents. If I have 56, it’s one per 28 — it just becomes so bizarre it’s not even funny,” he said.

One of the meetings Lane attended Tuesday afternoon was a pre-budget get-together where a report prepared for the association three years ago was discussed.

He said it was the first time the association was asked to have a back-and-forth on the report, which was done by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the association in 2010 and focuses on minimum-wage increases and how the government has responded with subsidy increases.

The second meeting was with an advisory committee formed last year in an attempt to try to address some of the issues the association is facing.

“I feel there’s a desire for the government to improve things, but there’s also a little bit of slowness in how we are responding to these issues,” said Lane, adding he has yet to meet with Health and Community Services Minister Susan Sullivan.

He said he has been speaking with the minister on other issues over the past couple of weeks.

“Out of all the ministers we’ve had to deal with over the last number of years, I really feel Minister Sullivan wants to head in the right direction, and I feel she’s probably the right person to pull this together if she can get the co-operation of cabinet and her department, so I think we need to give her a chance to pull it together,” Lane said.

But he cautioned while the association is willing to work with government and give the advisory committee a chance, he won’t allow either to get sidetracked and keep meeting without seeing any results.

“I felt the meetings were positive, but I think government is attempting to catch up from many years of neglect,” he said.

The minister wasn’t available for comment as of deadline.