'It is manageable': Winnipeg personal care homes dealing with one-time funding cut

Personal care homes in Winnipeg faced a one-time, in-year funding cut of a quarter of a per cent earlier this year, amounting to a reduction of more than $1 million across the system.

St. Amant River Road facility cut cafeteria hours, other centres found efficiencies to make cut: WRHA

Personal care homes in Winnipeg were instructed to cut a quarter of a per cent from their spending by the end of the fiscal year. (Shutterstock)

Personal care homes in Winnipeg faced a funding cut earlier this year — but a long-term care association says it was small enough that it didn't impact care.

Manitoba long-term care centres took a one-time, in-year funding cut of a quarter of a per cent earlier this year, amounting to a reduction of more than $1 million across the system.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority confirmed homes throughout the city were notified of the "savings target" in July, to be implemented before the end of the fiscal year.

Manitoba Health approved the plan and sites were instructed to move forward with the changes in late September, she added.

But the spokesperson said services at the long-term care centres weren't impacted by the cut.

"None of the savings identified by the sites impacts front-line staff," she wrote in an email.

Instead, sites used vacancy management — not filling vacant positions — and administrative efficiencies such as supply management and office equipment purchases to achieve the reduction, she said.

The quarter of a per cent means different dollar figures for different centres. In dollar figures, the biggest cuts were at the St. Amant centre on River Road at just over $82,000, ActionMarguerite St. Boniface at roughly $56,000 and Parkview Place Long Term Care on Edmonton Street at a little more than $47,000.

"[The] Winnipeg Regional Health Authority asking for a quarter of a per cent reduction of administrative costs, while at the same time increasing significantly the amount of money that is going to direct patient care in those PCHs — that makes sense," Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Friday.

NDP health critic Andrew Swan said adding beds to some centres won't help others deal with a cut. (CBC)

Goertzen pointed to the addition of 250 personal care home beds to personal care homes in rural Manitoba and Winnipeg, announced by the Progressive Conservative government earlier this year.

But NDP health critic Andrew Swan said an in-year cut leaves facilities scrambling to find savings in their remaining budgets for the year.

"A bed opening elsewhere in the city does not help the Simkin Centre when they're getting their funding cut in-year," he said, referring to the The Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre in Linden Ridge.

That centre lost $34,000 in the cut, and was featured in an article by Winnipeg's Jewish Post and News that broke the news of the cut earlier this week.

'No one was surprised'

Jan Legeros, the executive director of the Long-Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, said Winnipeg centres saw the cut coming and found ways to make the changes without affecting care.

"When we heard about it six months ago … no one was surprised that there was going to be an impact on long-term care as well as the entire health-care system," she said.

"I think everyone wants to, you know, partner and see this through."

Legeros said centres used changes to non-care items like purchasing contracts to find the savings.

"It is manageable, at this point," said John Leggat, president of St. Amant.

The River Road facility isn't a personal care home per se, he said, but it fell under the umbrella affected by the cut because it provides long-term care to many of its clients with disabilities.

John Leggat, CEO and president at St. Amant, said the 0.25 per cent cut is manageable, but further cuts could impact care. (CBC)

To meet the 0.25 per cent target, the centre cut back its cafeteria hours, closing at 2:30 p.m. instead of 6:30 or 7 p.m., he said. The cafeteria is intended for family members and staff, and nutrition services for residents were not affected.

"I think where we would be concerned is if there was additional reductions that were going to occur," he said. "I don't think we could give that same amount of assurance that quality of care wouldn't be impacted at that point in time."

His centre has been "really pleased" with co-operation from Manitoba Health and the Department of Families, he said.

"We're always concerned, any time we would hear of a reduction of funding. But given the context of what's going on right now in the province … it wasn't as much as it could've been."