MONTREAL — A merger of the two largest long-term care institutions under Jewish community auspices will serve to maintain their Jewish character and administrative autonomy, says Barbra Gold, executive director of the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre and Jewish Eldercare Centre (JEC), which have decided to become one.
The boards of each institution this month voted unanimously to merge, a move that will complete a collaboration that began in 2005.
The merger plan is voluntary, Gold said, and not imposed by the Quebec government. In fact, it’s hoped that one large institution will enable the community to continue to have control over these two institutions, which it founded but have been public for decades.
Almost eight years ago, Maimonides and the JEC chose to be run by a single senior management team, headed by Gold, and to share certain specialists, while maintaining separate boards, finances, staffing and volunteer services. Although they have worked closely together, they have remained separate entities.
The merger will create an institution with close to 900 beds, about 1,300 employees and an annual budget of $65 million, Gold said.
The two campuses will be maintained: Maimonides in Côte St. Luc and the JEC in Côte des Neiges. The JEC was created from the merger of two institutions – the Jewish Hospital of Hope and the Jewish Nursing Home – more than 20 years ago.
Gold said there will be little impact on the care that residents receive.
For the past decade, Maimonides and the JEC have resisted coming under the umbrella of a CSSS (Centre de santé et services sociaux). Ninety-five such regional bodies – including 12 on the Island of Montreal – were created by the Quebec government in 2004 as part of a reorganization of the health care and social services system.
Each CSSS has a single board governing a territory’s hospitals, nursing homes, CLSCs and the other public facilities.
The CSSS Cavendish, in whose territory Maimonides and the JEC are situated, now oversees about 10 institutions.
“Today, there are very few stand-alone establishments, and we are very vulnerable and threatened by the CSSSs, which we have fought for years to stay out of,” Gold said.
“The merger will make allow us to do a better job serving the Jewish community.”
Maimonides was founded a century ago and the precursor of the JEC was founded some 60 years ago.
She noted that the ethnic and anglophone long-term care institutions had been exempt from falling under a CSSS, but lately, at least in Cavendish, some have either chosen or been forced by circumstances to relinquish their independence.
Although economics was not the primary factor in the merger decision, Gold said that as one large institution, Maimonides and JEC leaders believe they will be better able to cope with the major budgetary cuts the government is making.
In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the two institutions saw their budgets reduced by a total of approximately $900,000. Last year, the decrease was more than $450,000, and Gold is bracing for another severe cut in this fiscal year, which started on April 1, in the order of $990,000 to $1.2 million
Gold said the boards also think that a single large institution will be better able to recruit and retain the best staff and attract more support for training and research. (Maimonides is a McGill University-affiliated teaching institution.)
Both Maimonides and the JEC recently were accredited for four years by the independent Accreditation Canada International, which evaluates the quality of an institution using a wide range of measures.
Maimonides also manages two off-site smaller residences, the Maison Paternelle and the Résidence Lev Tov, along with a number of group homes, as well as offering a day hospital and respite services.
Until the Montreal Health and Social Services Agency approves the proposal, the two boards will be in place, said Gold, and that could take from six months to a year.
What name the merged institution will use has to be determined.
“We fully expect this proposal to be accepted, and we are committed to ensuring a caring, transparent and effective transition,” the institutions said in a joint press release April 5, signed by JEC president Don Prinsky and Maimonides president Ron Waxman.
“This is an exciting time in the combined 160-year history of both centres, one that will engage a great deal of energy, focused and goodwill on all sides,” they said.