Question time at the Monte

December 11, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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It is business as usual at Sydney’s Sir Moses Montefiore Home following yesterday’s AGM at which the Board faced questions from, amongst others, independent aged care operator Millie Phillips and journalist Josh Levi.

L-R President David Freeman, CEO Robert Orie, treasurer Tom Mautner, vice-president Gary Inberg and Hon Sec Max Kahn

President David Freeman outlined the events of the year and said that the Homes provided equal care standards for “a large proportion” of  subsidised residents. CEO Robert Orie told J-Wire that around 30% of residents were financially aided by the Home.

He said that home home was running on the basis of a financially sustainable model and “continues to provide world-class accommodation and services”.  Freeman made reference to the “vast difference between the quality of the Home’s care and aged care facilities and the typical facilities offered by commercial and for profit providers”.

In order to deal with future needs, Freeman announced that the Home would be conducting a capital appeal in 2014. He made reference to the launch of the Montefiore Chair of Healthy Brain Aging at the University of New South Wales for which the Home had funded to the tune of $1 million.

Dealing with media reports on the Montefiore’s financial position Freeman said: “The Home in 2004 had substantial cash reserves on deposit at high interest rates. These monies were used to build a world-class age care facility which was the purpose of the original bequest. The purpose was not to leave the money in a bank account.”

He announced that four younger members of the community had nominated for the Board election in answer to criticism that the Board’s succession plan was questionable. Freeman said that the recent takeover attempt by Mrs Phillips and her commercial nursing home operating partners would have done no good for the Home’s values reputation and cutting costs to the bone is repulsive to this Board.”

Treasurer Tom Mautner referred to a decrease in income due to reduced interest rates but the home had shown a profit of $7.4 million “before adjustments”. Government subsidies had totaled $32.7 million [43% of revenue]. He said that 76% of expenditure related to staff payments. Mautner said that the current balance sheet showed net assets of $297 million and has no external debt other than refundable accommodation bonds, representing 94% of its liabilities. He said that most of the Home’s investments take the form of term deposits with major banks.

Millie Phillips wants a debate

Nursing home operator Millie Phillips said that she would like to publicly debate Montefiore. She said that “your auditors report to the nation of benchmarks..benchmarks that apply to every single nursing home in Australia. The benchmarks are supervised by the Government department.” She said that the benchmarks and the balance sheets from the Montefiore show that “this facility wastes about $40 million a year”. She said that she could prove if she were allowed to put figures up to the board buy said “it would be better to ask your auditors to give you a report that shows that I am not telling the truth. She told the meeting that she had gone to Canberra last week where she met with the Catholic Aged Care Association which runs aged care facilities accommodating 20,000 people. She said that they were all run by professionals and not volunteers.  She said that each person accommodated produced a profit. She said that the “generally accepted profit per bed, per annum is $15,000.” She added: “Montefiore specialises in losing money”. She asked the Board to sit down with her to discuss this matter.

Montefiore auditor Stuart Hutcheon said he did run a benchmarking service for the aged care industry which included about 25% of the industry. He said it was not a Government survey but an independent one “we do for our clients”. He questioned the $15,000 as an accepted level saying that it “varies from place to place” and said that his average is $7,994 and he “did not believe” that $40 million was wasted. He said “we have to report on the financial statements of the Home…that they are true and fair, that they are in accordance with accounting standards and that the Home can pay its debts. I have signed off on that.”

Joshua Levi

CEO Robert Orie challenged Millie Phillip’s claim that staffing costs at the Monte were 120% of income and that the industry standard was between 50% and 60%. Orie said that the Montefiore’s figures also included their hotel and foundation costs and that she was comparing “all of our salaries and wages to residents’ fees”. Orie said that the actual benchmark re the residents’ cost was 59%.  Orie responded to Millie Phillips saying: “I think we can put an end to this absolute nonsense.”  President David Freeman added: “To compare nursing homes with four or five residents in a single room sharing a community bathroom with the Montefiore Home is a rubbish nonsense and this must cease.”

At this point Montefiore member Bernard Kirschner told the meeting: “I visited the Yagoona nursing home myself to see what sort of home  [at this point he said ‘that is owned by Mrs Phillips] it is. There were two people per room. There are no TV sets unless you bring your own one. The beds are divided by curtains. The toilets are in a separate room.”

Joshua Levi asked if the fund-raising produced income to run the home or to finance refurbishing. Robert Orie responded that current low interest rates are producing “a small deficit” but that under normal circumstances, fundraising contributed to capital works.

CEO Robert Orie announced that had been with the Montefiore Home for ten years. He said that for eighteen years prior to joining the Montefiore he had worked for profit-making care facilities. He said that his past experience was almost impossible to compare with the high quality of care at the Montefiore.

He said that his previous experience was  “almost incomparable with the quality of life provided for residents”. He referred to recent criticism of himself in the media which he said “questioned my credibility”. He said: “I have always conducted myself with integrity

George Fishman

and have always the best interests of this organisation and its residents at heart.”

Orie then related the background of the nominations for two board positions including one from a previous board member who had been removed from the board “for misconduct”. He said that he “had no time suggested to a candidate and suggested that they should never nominate not on the basis that it costs the Home money to run a contested election.”

Dr George Fishman disagreed with Mr Orie’s statement and said that he “would address these issues privately and possible through the Jewish News”.

Orie ended the meeting by saying that Government visits to the Homes had resulted in compliments and that Home had received two Better Practices Awards…one for the Advance Care Training program and the other for the Culture and Spiritual program.

At the end of the proceedings Millie Phillips  challenged the Board- “Why don’t you debate me in public?” They replied they already had.

David Freeman said “It has been a very difficult time. It’s time to heal.”

The standing members were re-elected and George Fishman and Gabby Berger failed to be elected. The voting was carried out through a show of hands.

Four new members were appointed to the Board. and the existing executive were reelected with David Freeman entering his ninth year as president.





One Response to “Question time at the Monte”
  1. George says:

    I write in defence of Gabriel Berger who along with me was a failed candidate at the recent Monte Board elections and to draw attention to the malicious and misleading statement by Mr Robert Orie, Monte CEO that Gabriel Berger was removed from the Monte board “for misconduct.” To the lay person “misconduct” connotes gross impropriety. In fact the only “misconduct ” of which Gabriel Berger was guilty was to repeatedly and at times vociferously question the financial position of the Monte and the quality of financial reporting to the community by the Board executive and its CEO, Mr Orie.
    Gabriel Berger is a highly experienced business man with a master’s degree in management and a graduate diploma in applied finance and investment.. He has served as a board member of Maroubra Synagogue, Moriah College and honorary Treasurer of Maccabi Tennis Club.
    Incidentaly Gabriel Berger was not at the meeting to defend himself but sent a formal apology which was noted at the meeting.
    Additionally I would like it noted that I am a brother-in-law of Gabriel Berger.

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