For example, measures to deal with overtime costs have been extremely successful. Those figures have dropped from 800 OT hours in May 2011 to five hours in May 2012.
That was accomplished by hiring more than 100 part-time staff, which are able to fill in the gaps much more inexpensively.
Other steps include hiring behavioural support staff, funded by the province, with an eye on reducing injuries to staff as a result of incidents with more troubled residents. Ways are also being looked at to reduce soaring energy costs, one of the major causes of the Manor’s growing budget.
But such measures are unlikely to eliminate costs to the city. If not for the subsidy to Pioneer Manor, almost two per cent of next year’s 4.4 per cent projected property tax increase could be eliminated.
The city’s share of Pioneer Manor’s budget has increased to $4.86 million in 2012, from $1.67 million in 2007. Estimates for 2013 are around $4.7 million, although the city has had to pay about $1 million more than budgeted every year since 2008 to cover higher-than-projected costs.
The problem, councillors were told, is that Pioneer Manor has become far more than the home for high-functioning senior citizens it was when it opened in 1953.
Today, it’s seen as playing an important role in providing long-term care beds for seniors and other patients who are too sick to live on their own, but don’t need to be in acute care beds in the hospital.
Alternative level of care patients, as they’re known, currently take up 100 acute care beds at the hospital, which is not only a huge waste of resources, it also causes overcrowding in the ER and has led to cancelled elective surgeries.
Pioneer Manor has grown to 433 beds today from 121 when it first opened, in part to take in ALC patients who are waiting in hospital beds for a spot to open up in a long-term care facility.
Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis, who sits on the board, said the Manor also has fewer private rooms than allowed under provincial legislation.
Fees for private rooms are far higher, and up to 60 per cent of rooms could be designated that way, a large source of potential new revenue. Currently, on 32 per cent of rooms at Pioneer Manor are private.
“We could compound the ALC problem by adding more private rooms,” said Dupuis. “We chose not to do that.”
Another example of how Pioneer Manor isn’t set up to maximize revenue is the fact that three groups currently operating in the building don’t pay rent: the City of Lakes Family Health Team, the Alzheimer Society and the North East Specialized Geriatric Services.
Those groups moved in about 10 years ago, roughly when the city’s costs began rising significantly.
The manor “was always close to its budget in its first 50 years,” Dupuis said. But a decision was made to bring those groups in not only to help residents, but the whole community.
“We had a doctor shortage then,” he said. “And there would be a lot of families in distress today” without the Alzheimer and geriatric services.
Dupuis urged council to give the Manor another year to see if costs can be brought into line, arguing that some progress is being made.
Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli agreed, saying early progress is encouraging.
“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction,” she said.
But Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour was less upbeat, while acknowledging Pioneer Manor is something Sudbury “needs.” However, considering costs are 30 per cent higher than at private facilities, something must be done, he said.
“If we don’t get a harness on the costs ... we’ll get ourselves into a situation where we have to do something drastic. We have to find ways to balance the books.”
Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett suggested bringing in an outside board to run the Manor and to focus on bringing costs down. When told that it was illegal under provincial rules, Kett persisted.
“Let’s call it an advisory group, then, and give them the same powers,” he said. “There’s always ways around it. Don’t say we can’t do it. I hate that.”
Mayor Marianne Matichuk said the city no longer has control over who the Manor accepts as a resident. That’s why 10 per cent of people living there come from outside of Greater Sudbury, communities that don’t pay anything to help run the facility.
“When I worked there, we could say, 'yes, we’ll take this person,' or we could say no,” Matichuk said. “We have no control anymore. It’s not really a municipal home.”
Matichuk suggested the city should at least look at selling the Manor, as other municipalities have done. Staff was directed to prepare a report on which towns and cities still run LTC facilities, which ones have sold them off, and how they did it.
Posted by Arron Pickard