From 15 executive perches they ran Ontario home care, getting paid nearly $4 million, about what it would cost to pay front-line workers for nearly 320,000 hours of service.
Londoner Chris Edgar wants one of those hours — just one — so her mother, a 94-year-old veteran, can take more than one bath a week.
“It’s disheartening to think we allow our seniors assistance for just one bath a week,” she said Thursday.
Edgar is part of a growing number of Ontarians who have placed care of a parent in the hands of a Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), an agency that tries to help people stay in their homes by looking after health and household needs or finds them a spot in a nursing home.
No one questions the objective but some accuse the agency of paying bloated executive salaries and expanding their bureaucracies while those who need home care make do with less service than they need.
“It’s outrageous,” Conservative health critic Christine Elliott said of the executive salaries. “I hear complaints about a lack of care.”
In 2012, the most recent year that salary data is available, 273 people working for community care access centres across the province took home $100,000-plus in salary and taxable benefits.
Leading the pay pack was someone who was paid $498,356 after working only half a year at the Wellington Waterloo CCAC.
Kevin Mercer left weeks after consultants found the agency had cut clients off from services without notice, what they called a “failure of leadership at the highest levels.”
The rising executive salaries —as much as 144% over seven years — should turn the stomachs of taxpayers, New Democratic health critic France Gelinas said.
“You can not justify why their salaries ballooned this way.”
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews defended her stewardship of CCACs, saying the merger eliminated so many chief executives the province saved a bundle — roughly $2 million.
Further restraint will comes when her government caps all public sector executive salaries, she said.
Matthews agrees home-care workers are underpaid but wouldn’t say if extra money would be steered their way in the next provincial budget expected early this spring.
“It’s a very high priority for me,” Matthews said.
Sandra Coleman says there are good reasons her salary at the Southwest CCAC has grown 144% since 2006.
Each of the province’s 14 CCACs were created by merging 43 smaller agencies, and with the joining in 2007, budgets and responsibilities soared, Coleman said.
She has played a leading role provincially as chair of the board of the Ontario Association of Community Care Access Centres.
There are more executives making $100,000 at a mid-sized Toronto hospital than at all the CCACs combined even though collectively they manage a quickly growing budget that has reached $2.2 billion, Coleman said.
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Ninety-four year-old Christina Edgar is no stranger to rationing. The Renfrew woman served in Britain’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World War.
But she never imagined in retirement in Canada she’d have to ration baths because her community care access centre (CCAC) would provide home care for just one hour a week.
Edgar got around on her own until two years ago, when she had surgery to replace a knee. Though Edgar could still get around Renfrew after surgery, using a walker for longer outings, taking a shower or bath without assistant risked a fall and a fractured hip.
It’s a risk her London daughter, Chris, didn’t want her to take.
The Champlain CCAC agreed to send a personal support worker one hour a week — but that left her waiting a week between washes.
“It’s absolutely shocking,” her daughter said.
The CCAC was supposed to send someone Thursday to perform another assessment, but two hours after the early-afternoon appointment, no one had arrived, she said.
Champlain’s director in charge of co-ordinating care, Kevin Babulic, said he couldn’t comment on a client’s concerns without compromising confidentiality but that such concerns warranted follow up.
“We will certainly follow up with any client and family concerns, and reassess.”
WHAT THEY MAKE
Pay and taxable benefits in 2012:
Kevin Mercer, Waterloo Wellington: $498,356
Jacqueline Redmond and David Marshall, South East: $359,781
Margaret Mottershead, Ontario Association: $316,170
Melody Miles, Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant: $275,109
Sandra Coleman, South West: $274,803
Cathy Szabo, Central: $271,734
Richard Joly, North East: $260,944
Gilles Lanteigne, Champlain: $257,517
Catherine Hecimovich, Central West: $244,406
Caroline Brereton, Mississauga Halton: $239,761
Stacey Daub, Toronto Central: $234,097
Mary Elizabeth Kuchta, Erie St. Clair: $221,779.68
Tuija Puiras, Northwest: $209,044
Donald Ford, Central East: $182,922
William Innes, North Simcoe Muskoka: $149,967