Sturgeon Foundation restructures for future

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Restructuring within the Sturgeon Foundation has resulted in the dismissal of four seniors lodge managers in the region in favour of a multi-site or shared administration management style – Stephen Dafoe Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Four seniors lodge managers found themselves out of work at the end of April as part of an organizational renewal taking place within the Sturgeon Foundation, a seniors housing organization that operates facilities and housing units in St. Albert, Morinville, Legal, Gibbons, Bon Accord and Redwater.

The organization employed seven facility managers prior to the recent restructuring. Four of those were dismissed to allow the foundation to position itself to meet future challenges and opportunities.

Sturgeon Foundation Executive Director Dennis Magnusson said during a press conference Monday afternoon the restructuring decision was not about individual personas but about what is best for the organization and the people it serves. Magnusson said the unanimous board decision was based on recommendations from an independent consulting firm who did a complete review of the Sturgeon foundation’s operations.

“They came out with a long list of recommendations and one of them was this one,” he said. “They call it a prioritized opportunity for cost efficiency. They said you should conduct an organizational review to identify opportunities, look at the span of control and have one manager for two lodges.”

Magnusson said the concept, referred to as multi-site management or shared administration, has been around for decades and was identified as something the organization should do as far back as 2010.

Under the new system, the region will be broken into three areas, each with a Housing Administrator and Assistant Administrator. The North Area will include Morinville and Legal and will be headed by Stacy Danake, formerly of Chateau Sturgeon in Legal. Walter Felitsyn will look after the East Area which includes Redwater, Gibbons and Bon Accord. Magnusson said the search is now on for a new Housing Administrator for the St. Albert Area as it was felt by the board a stronger management presence was needed for the two facilities there.

Dismissed in the organizational reshuffling is Lisa Bertschi who was in charge of Heritage Place Lodge in Morinville as well as the Heritage Place self-contained units and Lions Manor. Lois McRae, manager of Spruce View Manor in Gibbons and Sunridge and Sunset Manors in Bon Accord was also dismissed. St. Albert saw the dismissal of Sherry Munroe from North Ridge Lodge and North Ridge Place, and Sharon Hill from Chateau Mission Court. Magnusson said it is unlikely the two dismissed St. Albert managers would be accepted for the new position as the organization is looking for a different skill set.

Restructuring will save money

Magnusson said severance agreements are not yet worked out, but he anticipates a cost of approximately $250,000 being paid out to the four former employees. With an increase in salaries to the three Housing Administrators and the hiring of three Administrative Assistants to work with them, Magnusson anticipates the Sturgeon Foundation will realize an annual savings of approximately $100,000 from the funds previously paid out to the seven managers.

Magnusson said there is a need to be more financially efficient in the operation, particularly in light of increases in the tax requisitions the organization delivers to municipal rate payers over the past few years. “Tax requisitions had been increasing in and around that time,” Magnusson said, adding ultimately the majority of the organization’s board was changed out with five new members in the fall of 2010. “That board appointed in 2010 was given a very clear mandate to make improvements. We’ve got to get on with being efficient. We’ve got to get on with positioning ourselves to meet the changing needs and the opportunities of the future.”

While those changes have resulted in the termination of four members of the upper-management team, the executive director said he anticipates no cuts to front-line staff. “The housing operations have a pretty lean staff as far as front-line staff,” Magnusson said. “There’s no room to cut front-line staff. In fact with care needs of the seniors, with people becoming more frail, at some point in time we may have to look at adding staff. But that also becomes a matter of funding.”

Magnusson said the severances will not have an impact on ratepayers going into the next taxation year. It is his and the board’s hope to reduce the 2013 requisition increase to a single digit number rather than the double digits taxpayers have seen in recent years. “This on-going double-digit increase in requisitions is just unacceptable to the board of directors,” Magnusson said. “So we’re working with that.”

Restructuring about residents

Magnusson said the most important people in the restructuring are the residents and tenants the Sturgeon Foundation serves. The executive director said the remainder of 2012 will focus on review and reorganization with planning and projects being the focus of 2013. Through it all Magnusson said the focus will be first and foremost on the seniors.
“Our focus as an organization is very strongly on the residents,” he said. “There is accountability for how that work is done. We are currently doing a satisfaction survey. The results are being tabulated and we will continue to monitor whether the residents are satisfied with the survey or not.”

Magnusson said it is not just about the bottom line. Things have to be viewed in balance with other accountabilities in the operation. Chief among those is how pleased residents are with the service they are receiving.

“With the residents, a lot of our messaging is not going to be so much about the changes in management,” he said. “It will be more around the results of the satisfaction survey which we expect to have towards the end of May.”

No farewell parties for long-time managers

He realizes the removal of four lodge managers will have some effect on residents, particularly given the fact they were removed from their position without having the opportunity to say farewell to the residents.

Magnusson said staff was made aware of the changes on Apr, 27 so they would understand and have the restructuring message in context first so as to be able to answer residents’ questions. Additionally, every resident and tenant was given a letter informing them of the management change and program coordinators have spoken to the residents about the changes during meal times when all residents are together. Magnusson said he is also prepared to meet with seniors one-on-one or during resident council meetings to discuss things further.

Although residents will be able to talk with some representatives of the Sturgeon Foundation about the restructuring, it is unlikely there will be any return visits by the dismissed managers. Although Magnusson admitted former managers have not been specifically told they could not return, they would be required to ask permission before doing so.
“Organizations don’t normally accommodate that,” he said of return visits, adding staff sometimes hold parties for departing workers but it is usually done offsite. “Once you leave a place, you’re done. If you keep going back it can be disruptive and cause concerns or upset with people. As a general rule they’re better not to do that.”

Magnusson was clear in his message the decisions were made for restructuring purposes to better serve residents of Sturgeon Foundation facilities and not because the four managers had left on bad terms or were doing their jobs poorly. In addition to the changes to a Housing Administrator position and multi-site system, a maintenance head will also oversee work and repairs at all Sturgeon Foundation facilities in the six communities the organization serves.

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