H.J. McFarland Family Council seeks support from County Council amid growing concerns

(Gazette file photo)




“Aging is a terminal disease from which none of us can escape,” stated Joy Vervoort at last Thursday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting.

To that end, Vervoort, a member of the Family Council at HJ McFarland Memorial Home, spoke to several concerns at the home a deputation she made to the Committee of the whole on Thursday. The deputation was received by council through a Councillor Kate MacNaughton/Bill McMahon motion, with Councillor Janice Maynard stipulating the H.J. McFarland quarterly reports include updates and concerns of the Family Council.

“I want to make sure this doesn’t die at the podium,” stated Maynard.

Like Councillor Maynard, the Family Council at H.J. McFarland do not want to see their concerns go unnoticed.

Traditional avenues of communication between Family Council and management at the home are one of their primary concerns, which is why Vervoort found herself speaking to council Thursday.

“We’ve had issues with concerns raised and there’s no follow up,” stated Vervoort.

Vervoot also cited the recent change in administrative staff as having not been communicated clearly to Family Council at the beginning of that process.

“There was no official announcement made. There are things going on that we are just not aware of,” said Vervoort.

Family Council is described by Vervoort as acting as a conduit between staff, residents and  County Council.

“Family council addresses issues of a collective nature. We offer recommendations to the management team concerning service delivery. We also are involved working with the management team to provide educational opportunities for family members. We get our authority under the Long Term Care Act of Ontario,” she stated.

Part of the Family Council’s responsibilities also include providing assistance, information and advice to residents and family members regarding their rights and obligations under the act and any agreements. The advocacy group also review inspection reports and summaries.

But Vervoort describes the breakdown in communication at the home as negatively impacting Family Council’s ability to fulfill their role under the legislation.

“We are unable to provide information, advice and assistance to residents’ families when we are not kept informed. When we ask questions, we receive either vague answers or they are not answered at all,” she stated. “Our main purpose is to improve the quality of life of the long term residents and to give family and friends a forum for sharing experience,”

Vervoort made clear in her deputation that recent changes have also had an impact on the level of service received by residents of the home.

“Four of five management positions are staffed with interim managers. The incumbent to the fifth position is away on extended sick leave,” She explained.

She worries that the recent changes, combined with lack of proper communication, may result in the home losing their current Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation standards.

“If standards are not maintained, there’s a risk of loss of accreditation, which would affect the premium paid by the ministry. The case management index could also be negatively impacted resulting in lower transfer payments from the province,” said Vervoort, adding that inaccurate or incomplete documentation could affect this funding.

This funding model represents the largest allocation of funding from the province. As Vervoort points out, the home lost that funding once before in 2014-2015.

“The loss of revenue came close to $200,000 and the County of Prince Edward was on the hook to fund the operating shortfall,” she said.

At a time when demands of long term care homes such as H.J. McFarland are increasing, Vervoort, on behalf of the Family Council, believes council needs to make permanent staffing for management and other vacant positions- whether temporary or permanent- a priority.

“This is not like the roads, planning or economic development departments. This is a 24/7 operation where the lives of 84 residents rely on staff to be there when they need them,” she added. “We’re asking for commitment from council to help us achieve that goal.”

In speaking to the issues raised by Vervoort, Councillor BILL Roberts questioned the deputant as to whether or not she believed the home did not showcase the same level of excellence it had when the CARF accreditation was acquired.

“We feel it is, yes,” replied Vervoort.

While some council members grappled with how to ensure the issues brought forth were not forgotten, Acting CAO Robert MacAuley spoke to his belief that the issues presented were more a matter of workplace relationships within the home.

“This was a bit of a shotgun presentation of things. We take some of the points raised here, as you heard the home is in a state of transition at this point so I would expect that over some time there would be some evolution to solution on all of these points and that management and family council can work together,” said MacAuley.

He iterated that a staff report would not provide council with any specific answers to concerns within the home.

“We have no communication protocols at the home that have been documented, but that is being remedied. That might come forward to council as a policy. There are efforts underway which, from time to time, you may see and need to adopt in other aspects…it’s simply how the business is conducted,” he added.

MacAuley further stated that, although reports are already issued quarterly, family council could include their concerns within this report, thereby creating an ongoing dialogue.

“Then, in a few months time, Family Council can come and speak to Council again if they feel they need to,” added MacAuley.

Vervoort asserts that Family Council have already tried to bring concerns forward stating that they had already written several emails to council and met with Mayor Ferguson in June.

“Some concerns have been addressed, but not all, and that’s why we’re here today,” said Vervoort.