Four months after being placed on administrative leave by the board of Bethania Group Personal Care Homes, chief executive officer Ray Koop was let go on Oct. 3 following the release of an independent review ordered by Manitoba’s health minister, Theresa Oswald.
The review—which also dealt with allegations of nepotism, staff intimidation and financial mismanagement—arose after a government audit revealed the board had ratified a 2012 retire/rehire contract with a salary increase for Koop, contravening a provincial freeze on executive pay to organizations receiving government funding. Bethania receives $9.5 million annually from the province to operate the Bethania and Pembina personal care homes in Winnipeg.
In April, the Bethania board defended its deal with Koop, stating in an April 15 Canadian Mennonite article (“Manitoba orders Bethania Group to terminate CEO”): “[T]he board maintains it has the right and legal responsibility to hire the CEO . . . and to determine the terms and conditions of the contract.”
But in the wake of his dismissal, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Koop has agreed to repay Bethania $73,526 for salary and benefits, and has already reimbursed the organization $30,000.
Dave Dyck, former board chair of Mennonite Central Committee, was appointed to conduct the independent investigation. The review, released Sept. 19, was accepted by the provincial government and the Bethania board. It addressed concerns and made recommendations regarding intimidation, nepotism, senior staff appointments, allocation of financial resources and board governance.
“A simple continuation of the status quo is not a functional long-term option,” wrote Dyck in his review. “Without significant change in the leadership provided by the CEO and, to some degree, the board, Bethania will lurch from crisis to crisis.”
Leni Lousier, first vice-chair of the Bethania board, said this has been one of the most painful experiences she has had. “The last number of months has been extremely difficult, a very stressful time for Bethania,” she said. “The allegations have had an effect on everyone, not just the board, but the senior leadership team, our frontline staff, our residents, our families and our Mennonite community at large.”
“The recommendations speak to every single issue, to every allegation,” said Lousier. “We need to make sure we are doing the best we can to make sure people feel valued at Bethania. We have started implementing the recommendations already.”
“There are those at Bethania who like to think that if only the minister and the deputy minister at the time had been less confrontational and more restrained with public comment, all would be well,” wrote Dyck in his report. “Without question, it is true that the publicity surrounding the retire/rehire scenario and the attempt to increase the salary for the CEO has dealt a serious blow to the reputation of Bethania within its own long-standing and generous supportive community. Hopefully that trust can be rebuilt and hopefully this investigation will contribute to a factually based rebuilding process. All that, however, does not alter the reality that
changes needed to come to Bethania and the question remains whether the necessary changes would have been implemented without some public embarrassment and pressure to do so.”
“We can’t be destroyed by our failures. We have to learn from them.” said Lousier. “We need to remind ourselves to work through the troubled times and do everything with the faith that God is going to continue to lead us and help us move forward.”
Throughout this difficult time the quality of care was never in question.
“High-quality resident care is paramount for the staff at Bethania and I’m pleased this report recognizes the great care front-line staff at Bethania provide every day,” said Oswald in a government release. “We support the board in its decision and are pleased we were able to work together to come to this resolution.”
“Our government has said from the outset that we value the role of faith-based facilities in our health-care system and we want to ensure both Bethania and Pembina Place remain Mennonite-run personal care homes,” said Oswald. “I believe the recommendations in this review will not only allow Bethania Group to provide excellent, faith-based care, but it will also ensure these homes continue to thrive for years to come.”
Les Janzen, chief operating officer for Concordia Hospital, has been serving as Bethania’s interim CEO and will continue to do so until a new CEO is found.