Well, wasn’t that quite the diatribe this week from Vishal Chityal and his counter ego Charlie Duke over at SupportiveLiving.ca. The lengthy Facebook posting was in response to last week’s item on COVID-19 precautions that may be in place at Walnut Manor, a home operated by SupportiveLiving.ca.
There hasn’t been pushback like that from Vishal/Charlie in the six years we’ve documented conditions at Walnut Manor, beginning with the closure of the kitchen by the health unit in 2014.
So, why is that?
And, the detailed itemization of the many protocols now in place at the facility including increased sanitization, temperature monitoring and PPE for frontline staff.
And how can you possibly doubt the sincerity of an individual who advises, “Increased activities, supports and individualized mental health support has been made available to our residents on a 24-hour-a-day basis, all personally provided by our CEO due to the lack of public funding.”
So, why is Vishal/Charlie doing all of this?
Hint: keep the last six words of that quote top of mind for a moment or two.
And have you ever seen such heartfelt concern from Vishal/Charlie for the city and its residents?
“We wish all citizens of St. Thomas the best during this crisis.” And, “Stay safe and stay well.”
So, why all of this?
The answer is on Page 8 of the agenda for Thursday’s (April 23) special meeting of council.
The city is in receipt of almost $1.8 million in funding “to be applied toward Social Services Relief in the context of extra expenses being borne relating to the COVID-19 situation,” according to the report to council from Heather Sheridan, acting director of the Social Services Department and city manager Wendell Graves.
Notice we’re not in a pandemic, it’s a “situation.”
In any event, the report contains a list of 13 residential community partners requesting some of those available dollars.
And, look who is on the list, Walnut Manor.
Yes, those vulnerable residents deserve the highest grade of protection from this invisible killer. There is no doubt whatsoever on that.
What begs a response from the two authors of the report is the assurance of strict financial accountability applied to all of the successful applicants on the list.
“We would put a system in place where they would validate to us where they made those expenditures in direct relationship to what the intended use of those expenditures was.”
So, we contacted Graves yesterday (Friday) to determine the amount of funding to be made available to each of the approved facilities and the follow-up on the part of the city.
As for the funding, “It equates to roughly $2,000 per bed for that entire year, until next March,” explained Graves.
The program will operate in six-month cycles, so for the first period, each home will receive $1,000 per bed.
Walnut Manor has operated anywhere from 12 to 18 beds in the past.
According to Graves, funding for any or all of the applicants is not a done deal at this point.
“We are still going through individual applications. We will have an audit process in place and agreements we will enter into.
“I don’t want to point or look at any one place. The point last night was so council could see where we had an interest and to solidify a funding envelope.”
As for accountability on the part of facilities who receive funding, Graves noted “What we are continuing to do internally is we are looking at some best practices from other social services and other managers across the province in terms of the audits being put in place.
“This is new for everybody.”
Graves continued, “We would put a system in place where they would validate to us where they made those expenditures in direct relationship to what the intended use of those expenditures was.”
And that has to be directed toward dealing with the coronavirus.
Keep in mind, last year Vishal/Charlie was offered tens of thousands of dollars in funding from the city to install a sprinkler system in Walnut Manor and he turned it down.
So, why was that?
Does the claim, “we are proud to say that our homes and residents are safe and well protected,” equally apply to fire protection?”
NO ARMCHAIR QUARTERBACKS FOR THE CITY
City council in Kingston this week passed a motion asking the province for “local flexibility to provincial orders, based on local public health units’ advice.” It’s a call for relaxing COVID-19 restrictions but only in relation to outdoor activities like tending to community gardens and not re-opening non-essential businesses.
We approached Mayor Joe Preston for his thoughts on the motion.
“Right from the beginning our emergency control group . . . decided we would listen to Dr. Lock at Southwestern Public Health as our main reason why we would or would not do something.
“If we couldn’t look ourselves in the eye and say the medical officer of health says this is a good thing or a bad thing, we wouldn’t try and become the armchair quarterbacks.”
“I can’t take my foot off the pedal right now. I promise I will quit saying, ‘Stay home’ but it won’t be this week.”
This approach has done the city well, suggested Preston.
“We know what we’re doing is on the guidance of people who know medicine better than us.”
The conversation with Preston took place the same day as a protest at city hall urging council to lift restrictions was a non-starter.
“There’s a purpose to this,” reminded Preston. “From Day 1, we said if we can avoid contact with other people and isolate, and if we can have those who may have the virus isolate themselves, we’ll stop this thing quicker rather than longer. And, I like the quicker.”
He reminded, we all want to get back to normal, “And this helps us do it. Although I question at least the research, if not the intelligence, of someone who wants to protest that.”
Preston went on to note, “The city is not the place where you would protest this. We’ve made pretty good decisions on some of our stuff like playgrounds, but I’m certain they’re not protesting playground structures or disc golf courses.”
The big-ticket items like the border closing and financial issues are a federal matter, continued Preston, “and if you’re just looking for me to re-open the playground equipment for you, we’re going to wait a little. I can’t take my foot off the pedal right now.
“I promise I will quit saying, ‘Stay home’ but it won’t be this week.”
In seeking to fill the seat left vacant after the death of Linda Stevenson, Preston and council made the decision to seek from the province an exemption from the 60-day time limit required to name an individual.
Preston advised he has not heard either way.
“It’s not that we don’t want to do this (fill the vacant seat), we don’t want to do it in the middle of an emergency declaration.”
One of the two choices available to council is a byelection which, of course, cannot be undertaken while the COVID-19 pandemic rules our day-to-day world.
“We’ve got big stuff on our plate. It’s not causing us quorum issues at the moment. We miss Linda dearly and at the council meeting, I thought of her more than once.
“It’s not a pressing matter for us, so let’s deal with the pressing matters and see what the province says to us about the rest.
“We can’t replace Linda Stevenson, but we can fill her council seat with a quality candidate who will help this community.”
WHERE’S THE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?
Downtown Development Board chairman Earl Taylor has written a letter to MP Karen Vecchio and MPP Jeff Yurek about what he describes as “an essential business discrepancy” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taylor writes, “Most of our Downtown St Thomas businesses have been classified as non-essential and have had to close up their shops, lay off staff and find new ways to generate business. These businesses are suffering greatly, but they are not ready to give up.
“I’m extremely proud of how they are stepping up their game and working tirelessly to adapt to a new normal.
“Most were not prepared to rely solely on an online type business. The Downtown Development Board is working closely with the EDC and the SBEC (Small Business Enterprise Centre) to help these businesses find a way to pivot and speed up their online and curbside shopping presence.”
Cutting to the chase Taylor points out, “However, we feel that it is unfair that large big-box type businesses, that have an essential business status for the supply of food and groceries, are permitted to maintain their non-essential business departments such as clothing, footwear, pet supplies, flowers, toys, furniture, personal care products, electronics and computer equipment.
“The doors of our downtown businesses are closed and these business owners are doing their part to flatten the curve. As a result, they can not compete with the big-box stores that continue to allow customers to shop unencumbered, for these same products that were deemed as non-essential.”
Taylor concludes, “We are asking for your help to change this shopping process such that these large one-stop businesses are required to block off and shut down their non-essential sections to create a level playing field for all.”
In speaking with Taylor this week, he advises “Karen did return a call to me, and she mentioned that she would try to meet with Jeff.”
If a pair of shoes or jewelry or flowers are considered non-essential downtown, they should likewise be non-essential in Walmart.
Isn’t that why the small downtown stores were closed in the first place?
THE READER’S WRITE
Interesting responses to the letter posted on our Facebook page from SupportiveLiving.ca. We especially found this item from Peggy Lou intriguing.
“OMG what a joke! I’ve worked there, they don’t give a shit about the residents. They are all just a dollar sign to him!! I support Ian in everything he reports about Walnut Manor. I have seen the manager treat the residents badly!!“
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