| Oct 23, 2008

Oct 23/08 - Frontenac County Council

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Feature Article - October 23, 2008 Frontenac County CouncilBy Jeff Green

Review praises Fairmount Home's “gentle care”, questions costs

Frontenac County Council was presented with an operational review of their signature service, the county-owned Fairmount Home for the Aged, at their meeting on October 15.

Consultants Nicholas Manherz and Melodie Zarzeczny of the Osborne Group presented the highlights of the review, which was conducted earlier this summer.

One of the outstanding features of the home, according to Zarzeczny, is “the extent to which Fairmount is on the cutting edge in long-term care. It has high levels of volunteer involvement, and plays a leadership role in service delivery in the province. By having a nurse practitioner on staff, a physiotherapy program, and the ability to accommodate emergency admissions, Fairmount is doing well.

“Our evaluation points to Fairmount as being a model for long-term care. It costs more but this is how you want to deliver long-term care to your parents, your loved ones.”

The review also made 38 recommendations for improvement. These range from scheduling issues to the range of tasks performed by nurses, personal support workers, and support staff in the home, which “is more expensive to run than the provincial average,” said Zarzeczny.

The consultants noted that salary levels for nurses at the home are 5.5% to 9.2% higher than the provincial average, and the ratio of nurses to other staff is higher at Fairmount than at other homes.

“For example, certain tasks are done by nurses at Fairmount, such as replacing batteries in equipment. That does not need to be done by nurses.”

Nicholas Manherz said “Fairmount needs to consider ways to reduce or stabilize reliance on funding from Kingston and the county,” and he pointed to two possible ways to do this. “You could cut staff or hold tight on salaries and benefits and wait for the rest of the industry to catch up. We recommend the second option.”

The consultants also said that an analysis of scheduling practices could lead to an overall reduction in absenteeism.

Julie Shillington, the Fairmount Home Chief Administrator, said that her staff are “hoping to review this report fully, take the recommendations and put together both a short-term and a long-term operational plan to bring back to council, hopefully by March.”

South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison said, “My only comment is that I am surprised that we are at the leading edge of salaries.”

“It is a very interesting report,” said North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire. “We walk a fine line here, we need to put away our municipal hat at times and consider the well-being of patients, while keeping in mind that if services expand someone has to pay for it.”

$35,000 to be spent on a review of county council composition

Among the commitments County Warden Jim Vanden Hoek made for his one-year term was to take a serious look at the way county council is structured. Since it was originally set up as a management board, Frontenac County is the only county in Eastern Ontario to have a four-member council made up of the mayors of its four constituent townships. The other councils are all larger.

In line with Vanden Hoek's commitment, a request for proposal was prepared over the summer, and at this month's council meeting staff recommended accepting a $58,900 proposal from Armstrong and Associates to prepare a county council composition review. Staff also recommended that this review be paid for by dipping into the county’s reserve of federal gas tax funding.

Central Frontenac Mayor Janet Gutowski had a big problem both with the cost and proposed method of funding the review. “I can't support the gas tax being used for this. I think staff can do this, enter into consultation with township staff, and county council can make its own decision regarding its makeup. I really think we need to complete the ICSP [integrated community sustainability plan] before we spend gas tax funding.”

At its September meeting, the county refused to consider a request for gas tax funding of a salt dome that came in from Central Frontenac Council. At the time, county council said the ICSP needed to be completed before county gas tax money was allocated to the townships.

“I looked at this and I think it is a lot of money to spend on something that has already been decided,” said South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison. I'm on Janet's page on this.”

“From a staff point of view, we thought this would dovetail with the ICSP project,” said County CAO Elizabeth Savill, “recognising that the ICSP does have a component that addresses governance.”

Warden Vanden Hoek said he understood what the two mayors were saying, but he was concerned that if something like this weren't done, then the reform of county council might not happen during this term of council.

After a short recess, Vanden Hoek proposed that the contract with Armstrong Consulting be limited to $35,000, and this was enough for Mayor Davison to support the proposal.

“I still can't support this,” said Mayor Gutowski.

The proposal was approved in a 3-1 vote.

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