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Health minister appoints interim manager at care home

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Health Minister Theresa Oswald has appointed an interim manager for the Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg in the wake of a Manitoba Ombudsman’s report citing gross mismanagement of public funds at the personal care home.

"Manitoba families expect accountability for their tax dollars and that includes funding for independent personal care homes," Oswald said in a statement.

"The Ombudsman has made it clear the administrators at Middlechurch failed to provide adequate governance and accountability, and that’s why we’re taking action."

Among several allegations the Ombudsman’s office received was that the executive director contracted with her husband’s company and her brother-in-law’s company to perform work at the home and that proper tendering practices were not followed.

The executive director also placed herself in a conflict of interest by creating a second administrative assistant position at the home and appointing her daughter-in-law without a job competition.

It was also alleged that the executive director was issued cheques "for unknown purposes" in excess of $10,000 that was above and beyond her salary.

The Ombudsman’s report, released today, was also critical of Middlechurch’s board for providing insufficient staff oversight. The care home, with a capacity of close to 200 residents, receives $9 million from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) annually and over $3 million from residents fees.

"We have determined that the extent, severity and frequency of the (executive director’s) and the (Middlechurch’s) board’s actions are such to constitute gross mismanagement of public funds and gross mismanagement arising from significant breaches to WRHA and (Middlechurch) policies," the Ombudsman’s report said. "Thus we have concluded that wrongdoing has occurred."

The Ombudsman did not find that any specific provincial or federal laws were broken.

The Ombudsman’s office initially learned of the allegations from a whistleblower.

The report recommends several accounting improvements at Middlechurch and urged the WRHA and province to review the financial practices at other personal care homes.

Ernst & Young will serve as Middlechurch’s interim manager. Management of the facility will be turned back to the home’s board of directors when the province is satisfied that "there is proper governance oversight" there, the government said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the province said it would be incorporating the Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations into new, tougher regulations to improve financial transparency and accountability at regional health authorities, hospitals and personal care homes.

History

Updated on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 4:57 PM CDT: fix typo

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