Why this Labrador personal-care home has to fundraise to stay open

A personal-care home in Labrador has had its funding cut because it theoretically has enough patients to pay the bills — but it’s turning to fundraising to keep the lights on.

“With financial challenges we pay extra for everything in Labrador: extra for groceries, extra for heating, just extra for everything,” said Nina Pye, chair of the volunteer board that governs Harbourview Manor, on Labrador’s south coast.

Pye said Labrador-Grenfell Health cut $120,000 from the home’s budget because the facility houses more than 15 residents, and therefore makes too much money from its residents to qualify for additional grants and subsidies.

“They tell us with over 15 people we can run sufficiently from the money we take in from the residents,” she said. 

“But because of our challenges that just wasn’t possible,” Pye added. “We had huge financial difficulties last year.” 

The population is aging so we don’t have a big workforce to choose from.– Nina Pye

The home stays afloat through fundraisers and donations.

“We do run overdrafts,” said Pye. “We’ve had to cut back wages a little bit; we had to be very cognizant of the hours we were using — it was just very, very challenging,” she said.  

But they’re still hoping for government support.

Nina Pye is the co-chair of the Harbourview Manor volunteer board. (John Gaudi/CBC)

“What we have asked for is a designation for our hydro to be designated as consumer-based, rather than business-based because right now the government could give us the same deal on hydro that they give schools and fish plants,” Pye said.

“With the stroke of a pen they could make a decision to do that.”

The average hydro bill for the facility is about $5,000 a month, Pye said they hope to see it cut to roughly $2,000 a month. That would save them  $36,000 a year.

Trouble attracting staff

The home isn’t just having financial difficulty; it’s also have trouble attracting and retaining staff. And the 20-bed facility has a long waiting list. 

“We have a dwindling population here on the coast,” said Pye. “The population is aging so we don’t have a big workforce to choose from.”

I do love it here, but there’s not really a lot of job opportunities here.– Kristina Rumbolt

The current manager is Kristina Rumbolt, a first-year nursing student from Mary’s Harbour who was offered the job for the summer, since she’s returning to school in the fall.

“Most people move away,” Rumbolt said. “There’s not much to do around here. This is a very small, isolated community – but this job is definitely exciting because you get involved with the community.”

While Rumbolt is excited for the experience, she still isn’t planning to return to Mary’s Harbour when she’s done her schooling.

“I do love it here, but there’s not really a lot of job opportunities,” she said.

Until she goes, though, Rumbolt said she and the staff are working to provide what they can for residents.

“We try our best to do what we can to make this place feel like home, because for most of them they’re probably here for the rest of their lives,” Rumbolt said.

Harbourview Manor is one of only two volunteer run personal care homes in the province. (John Gaudi/CBC)

When workers became scarce, the home increased wages, said Pye — a couple of dollars an hour above minimum wage at first, then another couple of dollars.

That prompted Labrador-Grenfell Health to suggest how the home should cut costs, said Pye.

“They had a meeting with us and told us we should decrease the wages,” she said. “We can’t operate unless we have people to work.”

Harbourview Manor decided not to cut the wages of current employees, said Pye, but new hires will be receiving two dollars less an hour.

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