Don't close Assisted Living

Hospital District Board decides; Assisted Living Residents to get eviction notice?  Really?

That is the latest news that the Community is hearing as of the last Hospital Board meeting. Well, I wasn’t going to get “involved,” but I can’t not be involved when this type of eviction action is threatened and it is our local elderly residents that are at risk.

Several weeks ago, a Community meeting was called to find ways to “save the Assisted Living Facility” – many people attended, myself included – lucky for them I had laryngitis at the time as I haven’t been know for holding my tongue. Many issues on the Assisted Living Facility were brought up; from the bland environment to the financial losses. I feel that the hospital district came to the meeting unprepared providing only general “loss” figures for us to digest and a reading of the letter from the Treasurer regarding the warrant status of the Long Term Care Division, basically stating that it was important for the Hospital District Board to act immediately and that no further losses would be endured. It was learned that the current situation has been know about for quite some time and apparently no positive action steps have been taken to properly manage the facility. Yes, we do have a higher population of Medicare and Medicaid residents and it was pointed out that it takes a larger number of “private pay” residents to break even. It was reported by the Hospital District that NO marketing plan is in place to promote or track viability – NO advertising – NO responsible effort to keep this facility open until now when we learn that it is threatening to close.

At the Community meeting, we asked for pre-sale appraisal figures and value of the assets for us to pursue buyers or lenders; we asked for review of the level of care of each resident to possibly improve reimbursement; we asked for marketing efforts, and an update to the waiting list to fill rooms; and a committee was formed to meet with the hospital Senior Managers (most of who are new and do not have the much needed experience) to come up with a viable plan. One such joint meeting was held and I believe an initial report was prepared for the Board meeting last Thursday – Oh how I wish I would have been in town! The committee’s recommendations were apparently not even heard or acknowledged and members of the community were listed as guests on those minutes not members of the very committee they were asked to be on – and the minutes of that committee meeting did not reflect the actual events of the meeting. Where is the professionalism; where is the responsibility and accountability. Is the Hospital District asking for our help and not even taking the claimed dire need seriously?

I heard today a comment from a Community member who felt that trust was broken… that has been the Hospital District’s bruised heel for many years and very sad… that is to say the least – I just hope we aren’t too apathetic of a Community now – too tired of the drama and the effort it takes to once more overcome these issues – and instead just let our valuable asset; our elderly – be kicked to the wayside for some other unknown agenda.

And what is the Hospital District’s agenda if not to save the facility and keep it open? I have heard through the rumor mill that the Hospital District just wants the losses gone – which translates to the residents gone – and then they can house one of the money making departments in that building…. Well, that building belongs to us… the community… we decide what we want to do with it – it was built for our aging residents who needed care we thought was valuable enough to vote for a bond levy to build that facility – we are paying for it – and we voted for the Board Members to make decisions to manage it successfully… Healthcare finances are complex, there is no doubt, but remember, this facility only needs to break even – it is a public Hospital District – not a for-profit entity.

It is the 11th hour and this community has stepped up – now will the Board leave the community at the plate and then blame the community? We need the information we asked for – we need the pre-sale appraisal figures and value of the AL and NH; we need the decision to close the facility by the end of March stopped until the community gets the information it needs to seek help. If we need to, this community can get a special levy passed to give us time to solve the problems the Hospital District has created or allowed but it won’t happen if the facility is closed and the residents are gone. It is more cost effective to keep a facility open and make the immediate necessary changes than it is to re-open a facility with all empty rooms.

We all know that management in any economy is not easy – but it does require action and consistent monitoring – it does require participation of all stakeholders; and yes, sometimes hard decisions must be made that are not popular and do impact us at our most vulnerable levels – but lack of management is certain disaster and does not promote loyalty and active participation. Einstein is attributed with saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results” – I believe it is time to do something positively “different.”

Connie Maden