| Jun 11, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - June 11, 2009 New Pine Meadow Head Looking to the FutureBy Jeff Green

Resident Barbara Ellsworth and Staff member Kim Cusick in the courtyard at Pine Meadow. Below: Administrator Bonnie George

Ever since Bonnie George took over the administration of Pine Meadow Nursing Home in February she has had an hour plus (each way) commute from the Sydenham area every day.

She doesn’t mind the commute, though, because as a single mother with a teenaged daughter and two boys in their early 20s she uses the time to make the transition from working in a 60-bed seniors’ home to her role with her family. “When I get to the door at my home, I’m ready for family life,” she says.

The combination of administrative skills, the need to create a team atmosphere, and the challenges of care-giving, have all been features of Bonnie George's work career and family life.

She started working as an administrative assistant at Queen's University when she was only 17, the same time she began caring for her mother, who was suffering from MS.

“Queen's was a good place to work,” she said, when interviewed this week from her office at Pine Meadow, “because not only are there a lot of options for change and growth in the workplace, the opportunities to take courses are there as well.”

Eventually, Bonnie formalised her care-giving role with course work, and after over 20 years at Queen's she took a job as office manager with a seniors’ home in Kingston that is owned by Extendicare, one of Canada's largest providers of long-term care, where she worked for five years.

“When I saw the job opening at Pine Meadow, a community-owned facility, I thought it was a tremendous opportunity, and it has turned out that way.”

One of Bonnie George's early goals upon arriving at Pine Meadow was to boost employee morale.

She has done that through a variety of means, but the main thing has been to take a direct interest in how everyone does their job at the home, and to recognise when staff do more than their job description calls for.

“When a housekeeper is cleaning a room, for instance,” she said, “and the resident is having difficulty brushing their hair and the housekeeper takes the time to help them, which they don't have to do, we recognise that. That's what a caring home is all about, and that is what we have here.”

George has also been impressed with the level of community involvement in the home, which is owned by Land o' Lakes Community Services (LOLCS) and overseen by a management committee of the LOLCS board.

There is also a connection to her former employer, Extendicare, which provides payroll and purchasing services to Pine Meadow to keep the cost of running a small home down. “I'm obviously comfortable with the Exendicare services since they are familiar to me,” said George.

She has also brought some other ideas she gleaned from her previous job to Pine Meadow, but she has noticed a difference working in a community-owned home. “I realized pretty quickly after arriving that the home is a real source of pride for the community. The community fought for the home and a lot of money was locally raised when the home was built. A lot of the extras that make Pine Meadow more comfortable for residents has been raised through the golf tournament and in other ways. That's all pretty special.”

As Bonnie George settles into her job and becomes known in the community (she hopes to settle locally once her daughter finishes high school), future prospects for the home will become a focus.

One initiative that could be in place in the near future is the provision of physiotherapy services for residents and the outside community as well. The space is available and Bonnie George does not see why the home cannot take on a healthcare role for the public, who now have to travel to Napanee, Kingston or Belleville for physiotherapy.

Further on down the road, the possibility of developing dialysis service is being considered. Pine Meadow has a nurse-specialist on staff, Susan Barchard, who is qualified, and there are a number of people in the area who travel to Kingston for dialysis on an ongoing basis, who could be served at Pine Meadow.

A major long-term thrust for Pine Meadow is a renovation. A subcommittee of the management committee has been developing renovation plans for years to upgrade Pine Meadow from what is known as a “B” class home according to Ontario standards to an “A” class home. The main sticking point is the fact that Pine Meadow has rooms with four residents, but “A” class facilities cannot have more than two residents per room.

“The committee has been working on this for a long time, and it is not something I have had to develop; the blueprints are ready,” said Bonnie George.

She is optimistic, based on what was said when representatives from the Southeast Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) visited in March that a funding announcement could be coming pretty soon for a renovation that would bring Pine Meadow up to the “A” standard. Provincial policy would seem to be on Pine Meadow's side in this, because all homes in the province are supposed to reach that standard.

The plans would not see the home get much larger in terms of the number of patients; it would only go from 60 to 64 beds, but it would be a significant improvement in terms of patient care.

In the meantime Bonnie George is continuing to become familiar with the home and the surrounding community. Although there is a new home in Tweed, the demographics in Addington Highlands and North and Central Frontenac, where 60% of its residents come from, ensure that Pine Meadow will continue to have a healthy waiting list for years to come.

And Bonnie George plans to be there to meet the new residents as they arrive.

On June 27, Pine Meadow Nursing Home will be having a fundraising Yard Sale & BBQ. Anyone wishing to donate articles towards the sale, please do so before June 24. All proceeds will be going toward the residents’ Harmony Gardens.

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