It’s not easy getting old

Editorial Gary MugJust as we’re getting over the shock of the Assisted Living being closed, we now have to contend with the knowledge that the Nursing Home in Tonasket may be hurtling towards the same fate. Again, there are legitimate reasons given for the potential closure of the facility, but that wouldn’t make it any easier. In fact closing the Nursing Home would have a much greater impact on our friends and family members who are no longer able to get along without 24-hour care. At least with the Assisted Living the residents most were able to care for themselves.

While the signs may have been there for years, when the hospital district closed the Assisted Living it felt like there was little warning. A lot of people were upset by the decision. People had to find new places for their loved ones to live, sometimes miles away from there homes. At least the hospital commissioners and administration seem to be more out front with the issue of the Nursing Home. They are being proactive by forming two committees – one to study how to keep the facility viable, and one to prepare for closure if the district can’t find a way to cover the over $800,000 in losses expected this year and again in 2015.

It’s been an up and down ride for the Nursing Home. At one time it was bailing the hospital out of debt, but those times are no more. Reductions in what the government pays for residents who rely on public pay to live in nursing homes is a factor everyone who runs a public facility like the one at North Valley have had to contend with for a number of years.

Twenty-four hour care comes at a high price and the majority of the residents in the home are on some sort of public pay which no longer covers the cost of full time care. Unlike our public hospital district, private facilities can not only cover costs but even operate at a profit because their mix of residents leans much more heavily to the private pay end. It’s doubtful that a private company will come in and take over the Nursing Home any more than they would have the Assisted Living.

Before the protests signs come out this time, let’s hope the commissioners do their best to let the public know what’s going on now, rather then waiting until it’s a foregone conclusion.

The Nursing Home is worth saving, but no amount of protest is going to save it if the funding is not there. It’s unfortunate that times have changed and the facility can no longer support itself. The hospital administrator says that the facility will remain open if the district can find the means to do so, even if it just breaks even or has to spend a little over revenues. But in addition to less government reimbursements, we also have an aging facility. And now that state law has changed there is no more going to the county to extend credit to our hospital district when the revenues fall short. The hospital district has to live within its means.

Whenever the care of our loved ones, especially our elderly, is at stake it is emotional. If the rest of the district’s Extended Care closes down, a lot of families will have to make tough decisions. Finding places for their loved ones won’t be easy and the district needs to be on top of things and do their best to help these important members of our North Valley communities. If this subject is near to your heart, be proactive – talk with one of your hospital commissioners, attend the hospital board meetings or keep reading Brent Baker’s articles on the board meetings. You might not be able to change things, but then again you just might.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.