A non-profit agency that provides housing and programming for people with intellectual disabilities in Winnipeg is branching out, acquiring the Manitoba franchise of Nurse Next Door home care business.
The CEO of DASCH (Direct Action in Support of Community Homes Inc.), Karen Fonseth, said the organization is taking this action to help subsidize the cost of continuing to operate close to 60 homes for people with intellectual disabilities.
Rising public sector expenditures to alleviate the effect COVID-19 is having on the economy is just another factor making social service funding that much more vulnerable.
Fonseth said the hope is that its Nurse Next Door business will be able to grow enough to provide DASCH with greater financial security.
Based out of Vancouver, Nurse Next Door Home Care Services is becoming one of the most successful franchise operations. It has more than 200 locations across North America.
Founded in 2001, the company offers a full spectrum of in-home care services, from caring companionship to 24-hour palliative care and nursing support. Its tagline is Happier Aging.
Some franchises have been operating for close to 20 years and have hundreds of clients and caregivers.
Fonseth said DASCH has been investigating opportunities to diversify its funding base with an associated enterprise for about four years.
DASCH’s multimillion-dollar operation relies on the provincial government for the lion’s share of its funding. "Over the years… it is getting very difficult for government to continue funding (social service organizations) at the level that they need to be funded," Fonseth said. "It has become very clear that social innovation will become more important."
Nurse Next Door will be a distinct operation from DASCH with a separate board of directors and separate staff (other than Fonseth, who will head both operations).
But the fact that DASCH has experience in providing quality care for a segment of the population with unique needs and an administrative infrastructure — including a human resource department that is almost always in hiring mode— makes Fonseth confident it can grow the Nurse Next Door operation in Manitoba.
The home-care business requires specific expertise and sensitivity. Demand exists in cities and towns and across the socio-economic spectrum and it may also be recession-proof.
"While virtually every industry has been affected drastically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our franchise partners continue to be uniquely positioned to provide even greater support for our communities," says Nurse Next Door CEO Cathy Thorpe.
The franchise fee is $65,000 and while there had previously been someone who held the rights in Manitoba, the business was not developed in the past.
Nurse Next Door employs nurses, certified health-care aids as well as companions to deliver a wide range of services.
At the heart of Nurse Next Door’s "Happier Aging" philosophy is the notion that its service can help clients engage in the one thing they used to love to do, which they are no longer able to.
Its services — which cost $35 per hour and are booked with a minimum of three hours per day, three days per week — range from companionship and general housekeeping and meals, to personal care, Alzheimer’s and dementia support, end-of-life care and in-home nursing care.
Fonseth said while it is a private service that clients will be billed for, Manitoba home care clients can self-direct home-care funding to private options.
Fonseth said the DASCH board was careful in its analysis of the business proposition and was mindful that it would not compromise its standing with the province.
Thorpe said most of its franchisees are individuals, but that DASCH was not the first organization of its type who have been awarded a franchise.
"What we love about DASCH is the alignment between our organizations and how deeply we care for the communities we serve," she said. "DASCH is an expert in the residential supportive living sector — this expertise will certainly be valuable as they build their Nurse Next Door operation in Winnipeg."
Fonseth is not aware of any other social service organization like DASCH making this kind of commitment to establish an alternative revenue stream. The province recently established an office of social innovation and it has been encouraging.
"We are aware we are blazing a trail and we’re proud of it," she said. "It is just not fair to rely on one source of funding these days. That’s when things can come crumbling down. It is about diversifying and caring for vulnerable individuals that we all care for."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.