NORTH BAY, Ont. — The redevelopment of Cassellholme hinges on a commitment to area residents to keep the long-term care home fully public, and “above all, open and frank dialogue. No more secret dealings with consultants and closed door votes,” says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario.
For many months the nine municipalities, including the City of North Bay that contribute to the operation of Cassellholme — one of just a handful of municipal (public) nursing homes in north eastern Ontario — have discussed the home’s future.
“But discussion and votes on motions have essentially happened in secret. This needs to stop,” CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn says. “Families with loved ones residing at Cassellholme and indeed the broader Nipissing community, the people who are the rightful owners of the public long-term care home, deserve to be part of a frank and transparent discussion about its future.”
CUPE’s repeated requests to get information about a process to transition Cassellholme from a public long-term care home where municipalities have a say on the level of care for residents, to a private, non-profit have met with “radio silence,” says Hahn. To that end, CUPE is filing formal freedom of information (FOI) requests with all the contributing municipalities.
That process began recently with the filing of an FOI with the North Bay clerk’s office. The request covers all correspondence, reports, motions and votes. Written FOIs to the other municipalities will soon follow.
“We believe it’s in the best interest of all the municipalities, but particularly North Bay as the biggest contributor to Cassellholme, to end the current back door approach. No one is benefitting from this secret society, in the shadows discussion being promoted by Cassellholme’s separate board of directors and its hired consultant,” says Hahn. He’s optimistic that the FOI request is completed in a timely way and that documents are provided to “us without large tracts of redacted, blacked out sections. That would be an unfortunate and telling mistake, if it happens.”
At the end of last year the Cassellholme contributing municipalities had to agree to a “confidentiality agreement”, just to view the “proprietary” content of the consultant’s report.
Henri Giroux the president of CUPE 146 says the front line staff at Cassellholme want to work with the different municipalities to keep the home public. Giroux believes staff and the majority of Cassellholme residents’ families are opposed to applying to the province to make the home a non-profit, because that could decrease care levels for residents. “We encourage the municipalities, particularly North Bay, to stay the course and keep Cassellholme public,” he says.
Doing otherwise by supporting this divestment to a non-profit, say Hahn and Giroux, sends the wrong message to the province.
“The Cassellholme redevelopment doesn’t hinge on a divestment and designation change to a non-profit. It’s a false choice. Accepting this is like the municipalities are conceding defeat that the provincial government has no responsibility to fund municipalities properly so that we can renew our public infrastructure, like long-term care homes.” says Hahn.
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