Following some public discussion about the new direction the Cassellholme board hopes to take the facility in, the general response seems to be much more welcoming than their previously proposed plan to explore the not-for-profit route.
Board chair, Chris Mayne said, in the end, it came down to that route having too big of an impact on the level of care that caused the board to change plans.
“Through the Fall, the board has decided not to pursue the direction of not for profit,” he said. “What we’re working on now is a blended proposal so the municipalities that want to exit Cassellholme are able to, while the remaining five municipalities can focus on the redevelopment.”
Henri Giroux, President of the North Bay Labour Council, had campaigned against the not-for-profit route since the idea came to light. However, after the board declared their intention to keep Cassellholme municipally run, he was pleased, solidifying his agreement with the route after the public information session in early December.
“The good thing that came out of it was hearing that the not-for-profit model was no longer the route,” Giroux said. “The other thing now is getting more information on the hybrid model.”
This district hybrid model would see the redevelopment of a building left over and leasing it to agencies, which Mayne said has already generated interest. Giroux said he supported this course of action, so long as the long-term care facility remained public.
Cassellholme began looking at alternative models of governance after the municipalities of Mattawa, Mattawan, Calvin and Papineau-Cameron wanted to withdraw as contributors. Mayne said because of how delicate the process can be, it was important for the board to do its due diligence and explore all means of alternative governance, if not to rule out the routes that wouldn’t work.
“Even going back five years ago, there have been four separate consultants that have recommended moving to a not-for-profit as a less expensive means of operating Cassellholme,” he said. “The most recent report was by KPMG in 2015. In terms of the advice and expectations that the board had, we were doing our due diligence to look at what was considered a reasonable proposal but it was always going to be subject to the final business case.”
And it was at the stage of the business case that the not-for-profit route failed to impress members of the board, confirming what critics had campaigned for.
“Through their investigation, they found that which was good,” Giroux said. “I think our campaign was great to give our side and whatever came out of it at the end it got people talking about both sides and I think this kind of campaign had to happen. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to keep our health services public.”
Despite this new route being chosen, there is still plenty of work to be done before anything can be set in stone. Mayne said for this plan to go through, it required cooperation and endorsement from all participating municipalities. However, after the presentations being made, Mayne said he was confident that this route would accommodate all municipal members best.
“The challenge is to be fair to everyone,” he said. “The proposal is they need to maintain their share of the operating costs until the new facility is open about three or four years away. We had hoped shovels would have been in the ground this summer, but it’s looking more like summer or fall 2017 subject to current discussions.”
He said before anything could begin, the project would require the approval of the Province, but Mayne said they have been supportive so far of the change in direction.
“We will be asking municipal councils to pass motions of support for the proposal,” he said, outlining the next steps. “There was a public meeting in December with municipality members, unions, and the public. There was no vote, but based on discussions, there seems to be a consensus that this is a good direction to work in and so far, everyone seems supportive.”
However, should this plan not come to fruition, Mayne said Cassellholme would stay status quo with nine municipal members funding it. If this were to happen, there would be no moving forward with redevelopment and would see four municipalities required to pay, but wanting out.