Sundridge councillor more understanding of challenges at Eastholme after AGM

·4 min read

SUNDRIDGE - The team at Eastholme Home for the Aged in Powassan “works very hard doing their level best and succeeding probably where they shouldn't be,” Coun. Steve Hicks says. Hicks was critical of Eastholme’s 2022 budget but, after attending Eastholme's annual general meeting where the details of the budget were explained in more detail, he has recognized the challenges it faces. The Eastholme budget for 2022 is $12,961,400, with $1,480,900 of that covered by the 14 member municipalities including Sundridge. In terms of which communities shoulder the highest burden, Sundridge is well down the list in 11th spot, paying $37,302 as its share. In March, when council approved its share of the levy, Hicks questioned how a budget that kept increasing every year could remain sustainable in the future. Eastholme explained to the surrounding municipalities that factors beyond its control, like spikes in insurance premiums and food costs were the cause for the larger budget. It said the sticker price on food alone rose nine per cent in one year. After attending the meeting, Hicks talked to his council colleagues about the food costs at Eastholme because he said it's a number that stood out for him. Hicks said Eastholme's annual food budget is $467,200. “Some people will look at that and say at nearly half a million dollars, that's a lot of food,” Hicks said. “But what it means is $10 a day per resident. It's not $10 a meal but $10 a day for three meals plus the snacks and drinks in between.” Hicks said the dollar amount does not cover a resident's dietary or medical restrictions. As food prices continue to rise, that was going to have a further impact on the cost of food, making it even more expensive and that added expense will have to be covered. Although the thought of someone eating on $10 a day may be surprising or shocking, Coun. Fraser Williamson said “Eastholme is the Cadillac'' when it comes to old age homes. Fraser said he's seen many old age homes as a member of the clergy, and without naming any said “imagine what it's like elsewhere, imagine what the food is like elsewhere.” Williamson said there are some seniors in the Almaguin Highlands who only want to go to Eastholme and will wait until an opening is available rather than go to another old age home. “I have dealt with some (seniors) who have gone to the hospital waiting for a room at Eastholme and some have died in the hospital waiting for that room,” he said. Although some seniors never make it to the old age home, Williamson said the fact so many people want to be part of the nursing home is a testament to how well the facility is run. However, everything has a breaking point and Williamson agreed with Hicks that food is going to become an ever-increasing major cost at Eastholme in the future “and we'll have to deal with it.” Hicks told council the nursing home system is one that has failed to evolve in an ever-changing world. “I feel the entire system is out of date at best and at the worst, it's broken,” he said. Deputy Mayor Shawn Jackson noted there are currently several roundtable groups involving the federal and provincial governments trying to address the nursing home system. “If you (Hicks) could get involved in that somehow, I think your input would be valuable,” Jackson said. Hicks indicated it was something he would investigate. Hicks told council the personnel at the annual meeting answered all his questions and were transparent and patient with him. He also suggested Eastholme can expand on that transparency by attending council meetings of the Almaguin municipalities beginning next January as it's preparing the 2023 budget so the member communities have a better picture of what's going on at the old age home.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget

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