Home Care contract causes FCSS concerns

The future of Ponoka’s FCSS organization to remain in its state of perpetual growth and improvement is sitting with less stability

The future of Ponoka’s FCSS organization to remain in its state of perpetual growth and improvement is sitting with less stability than many would like, as Alberta Health Services (AHS) is experiencing many changes itself and instigating many other changes in different organizations across the province.

While FCSS is a provincially based program, they also have ties with AHS. “Another arm of FCSS is we hold a contract with Alberta Health Services for home care,” said Shannon Boyce-Campbell, executive director of Ponoka FCSS.

The possibility of losing the contract, which the organization has held for more than 30 years, is one of the biggest concerns Ponoka FCSS is looking at.

FCSS’s current contract is up for renewal in March of 2015 and Boyce-Campbell says they don’t know what the future will hold or how the pendulum will swing.

Recently many other FCSS organizations around the province have lost their contract, and instead it’s been awarded to other for-profit organizations, which is a growing concern of Ponoka FCSS. The contracts go through a Request For Proposal (RFP) process and each local FCSS organization must convince AHS they remain the best agency to hold the contract.

“With that said, there’s been some significant implications in bigger areas — Edmonton, Calgary — some of the non-profit organizations were not granted the contract,” said Boyce-Campbell.

“Essentially it goes to a competition.” Although Boyce-Campbell wasn’t sure on the exact criteria or how the winning organization was chosen, she thought it may have to do with funding, accreditation and other similar factors.

Boyce-Campbell says the other option is the current contract might receive an extension. “But we anticipate that there would be an RFP.”

Boyce-Campbell believes it’s important FCSS retains the contract to keep it local and allow Ponoka FCSS to remain an all-encompassing organization. “Not only do we do home care in the homes, we can provide them with life-line, we can do Meals on Wheels, we have many services we can provide to the community.”

Because the contract has been with FCSS for such a long period of time, the organization has been able to build up a surplus of funds through the contract, which they use to further enhance in-house and external programming.

A portion of those funds is distributed to other organizations within the community, including anti-bullying programs, the Ponoka Youth Centre, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Scout Hall and the Linkages program. “We give a lot of money back to the community each year,” said Boyce-Campbell.

If they were to no longer be in possession of the contract, FCSS would have to release approximately 30 health care workers, many of the community donations would cease and other in-house programs would either be eliminated or change. “There’s a significant amount of money and a community that benefits from that,” said Boyce-Campbell.

As a provincial entity, FCSS programs receive 80 per cent of their funding from the Alberta Government and the other 20 per cent from the municipality; meaning 10 per cent from the town and 10 per cent from the county.

Ponoka FCSS is also represented by its own board; consisting of members of town council, county council and the community at large. “We’re also a non-profit, a charity, and the contract is under that,” said Boyce-Campbell.

“Our funding for FCSS has longevity,” said Boyce-Campbell, who feels support coming from the levels of government isn’t a concern.

“But with that said, Ponoka FCSS has become a much larger program than it can be in other communities,” she added.

The contract allows FCSS programs and services to run at a higher level of quality because they’re executed at a lower cost on the clients without seeing a dip in the end product, as staff wages are subsidized via funds coming from the contract.

“The programs would have to be revamped quite a bit . . . If we don’t have that contract, that’s a huge amount we would have to try to create. So we would probably have to do something like a fee for service or something like that,” said Boyce-Campbell.

“The reality for us is that the board and administration has chosen to be proactive and will try to communicate to the community and the decision making bodies that this is something that’s important to the town, the community and the county of Ponoka and we want to maintain it,” said Boyce-Campbell.

She says FCSS isn’t coming out with a fear-based approach; instead they want to focus on what’s realistic. “We want to make sure we have had a voice at the tables and we’ve communicated.

“We’re just building our momentum and awareness,” she added.

FCSS has been in communication with AHS and Boyce-Campbell believes FCSS’s good reputation and rapport with the organization will help them remain aware and informed. “We want to know our realities and hopefully we will have — in March of 2015 — that contract again.”

Boyce-Campbell says AHS is going through many changes, but from a local perspectives she feels Ponoka FCSS is on good ground with home care nurses, contract managers and regional representatives. “We have a feeling of a sense of security with them, good communication and are happy at this level. When we go beyond that, we’re not really sure what the future will bring.”

“We want to hold true to our local perspective, but we’re also looking out to outlying areas for what the reality is for other people and other groups,” she added. “You want to have your pulse on your own community, but you also want to be aware, realistic and proactive.”

For Ponoka’s FCSS, Boyce-Campbell says the biggest challenge the organization is facing is the unknown in its future.