Q & A with Michael McRae

President and CEO of St. Ann’s Community reflects on the 150th year of the organization, its mission and challenges

By Mike Costanza

Older adults have long been able to turn to St. Ann’s Community for a wide range of services, from day programs to skilled nursing home care. This year, the institution is celebrating 150 years of service to those in the Rochester area.

St. Ann’s Community began in 1873 when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester founded The Home of Industry on Rochester’s Edinburg Street. Younger women who lacked families came to the facility seeking shelter and the training in a trade that would allow them to become self-sufficient.

As the needs of the Rochester community changed through the years, The Home of Industry became St. Ann’s Home for the Aged, a residential care facility for the elderly. That institution is now just one part of St. Ann’s Community.

St. Ann’s Community now serves more than 3,000 older adults each year at campuses in Webster, LeRoy and Irondequoit and a Canandaigua affiliate. It offers apartments for older adults who wish to live independently, transitional care for those returning home from the hospital, hospice care for patients at the end of life and many other services.

The nonprofit has roughly 1,200 employees and a current annual operating budget of more than $89 million. The Sisters of St. Joseph relinquished control of St. Ann’s Community to a lay community board in 1997, but have maintained a close connection to the nonprofit.

In Good Health spoke to Michael McRae, St. Ann’s Community’s president and CEO, about its mission, the challenges it faces and the ways it might overcome them.

Q: What is St. Ann’s mission?

A: We promote the highest levels of independence and physical and spiritual well-being of older adults in the Catholic tradition of excellence.

Q:  I’ve never heard the term “Catholic tradition of excellence.” What does it mean, in the context of St. Ann’s mission?

A: Our foundresses, the Sisters of St. Joseph, talk about honoring their neighbor and doing right by the person that they come in contact with. It’s a deeply rooted and seated place that we come from in our view of providing the best care. We make sure that we take the people that we care for and put them at the center. We align our decision-making around that. I’m not saying in any way shape or form you need to be Catholic to be here. We welcome all faiths.

Q: Can you give us an example of how St. Ann’s has translated that tradition of excellence into action?

A: Very few senior communities in America have their own in-house medical teams. Our geriatricians, our physicians are the best in the business and we have nurse practitioners. When somebody comes into St. Ann’s, they’re seen and assessed by one of our providers — that then follows them. When somebody’s living in one of our levels of care and they need a higher level of care, that continuity follows them right through. That consistent care and that high level of skill that our providers have really sets us apart.

Q: In 2014, you went from being the executive vice president and chief operating officer of St. Ann’s to heading the nonprofit. What were your goals back then?

A: We have a significant obligation to get the right person to the right level of care the right time. That was one of the things I was focused on.

Q: What are some of the changes St. Ann’s has made since you became its president and CEO?

A: We had an adult day services program here in St. Ann’s home on Portland Avenue. We opened up a second location in Durand [Durand Senior Apartments in Irondequoit]. We can pick up Mom or Dad in the morning and provide them not only with the social but also the medical needs that they have for the day or into the evening and get them back home. It’s very important to maintain that person’s ability to continue to live in the community. In our main building we have up to 60 slots and at Durand we have roughly 45 slots.

Q: What are some of the challenges that St. Ann’s faces today?

A: In the nursing home, the amount that we receive from Medicaid funding is woefully inadequate. We’re about 80% Medicaid [financed care], and the state pays us about $100 per Medicaid patient per day — less than the cost to care for that person. It’s probably our No. 1 challenge. There’s also a shortage of nurses. Everybody in town is competing for them.

Q: How has St. Ann’s tried to cope with the inadequate Medicaid payments?

A: We have been working closely with our local state delegation. They’ve raised the flag in Albany, saying that we need to increase the Medicaid rate. We’re also trying to find other ways to generate revenue. We have our own private medical practice, we have adult day care, we have independent living. Those things have other funding sources, whether it’s insurance, Medicare, some private pay. We try to use those to offset the losses on the nursing home side.

Q: How is St. Ann’s trying to maintain and add to its nursing staff?

A: The correlation between the lack of funding and the staff pay is direct. We’re doing everything, not only giving the best [pay] rates that we can give and being competitive in the economic space. We also provide customized and tailored scholarships and tuition assistance for employees who want to advance their careers.

For more information on St. Ann’s Community, go to: https://stannscommunity.com