Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For-profit senior care can be top quality

Scott Burpee is the CEO of Safe Haven Health Care, which is planning to build a new, privately funded senior-care facility in the Bellevue area.


Last week in a guest opinion on this page, the Croy Canyon Ranch directors asked the question: "Does it matter whether senior care in Blaine County is offered by a nonprofit or for-profit organization?" What the question should be is: "Does Blaine County want to continue to subsidize and operate a nursing home when every other county in Idaho has moved away from this option for both legal and financial reasons?"

The guest opinion went on to compare the quality of care at the 25-bed Blaine Manor versus that at an 84-bed facility run by Safe Haven in Pocatello. While I have the greatest respect for the staff and administration at Blaine Manor, this is like comparing an Albertsons with a 7-11 convenience store. Safe Haven in Pocatello is considered a "behaviorally complex facility." Safe Haven in Pocatello treats and cares for much more difficult patients than does Blaine Manor. Moreover, comparisons of any nursing home with Blaine Manor is largely irrelevant, since Blaine Manor is a boutique facility in a unique situation, driven by the unusual fact that it receives $700,000 annually in taxpayer support.

The surveys cited in the guest opinion were conducted in 2011, and cover the same year in which we purchased the Pocatello facility. That building is 20 years older than Blaine Manor and suffered from years of deferred maintenance. We are proud of the upgrades that we have made, and we continue to invest in both staff and improvements to our Pocatello facility. The guest opinion failed to note that Safe Haven outscored Blaine Manor in many other areas affecting patient care. Other facts not on the website include that Safe Haven has the second highest Medicaid rate in the state. This is a reflection of our expenses and the severity of our residents. Blaine Manor's rate is not even close. Safe Haven has one of the highest Medicaid populations in the state. Our rate shows that we spend more on our residents than virtually any other provider in the state, profit or non-profit, and certainly more than Blaine Manor.

The slant of the guest opinion was to paint a grim picture of patient care at for-profit nursing homes. The authors did this with some selective editing. The opinion piece cited 2011 standard health inspections by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. It shows Blaine Manor with seven deficiencies while Safe Haven had 23 deficiencies. If we remember that Safe Haven in Pocatello is more than three times as large, with 84 patients versus 25 patients at Blaine Manor, and does not receive any taxpayer subsidies, then numbers start looking look less compelling.

It's unclear to us why the Croy Canyon Ranch directors continue to attack Safe Haven when we have not, and will not, ask the Blaine County taxpayers for annual subsidies. Nor are we asking the Blaine County commissioners to choose us over their proposed Croy Canyon facility. Rather than attacking our proposal in the press, perhaps they should be explaining to the public the status of their fundraising efforts, the size of the shortfall, who is being asked to pay for the shortfall and their operating plan to make Croy Canyon a self-sustaining facility.

Regardless of what Croy Canyon Ranch does, Safe Haven is committed to building a new facility in Blaine County. We are busy preparing drawings and site plans on a beautiful parcel in the Bellevue area. This will be a senior care facility that the Wood River Valley community will be proud of. It's my personal promise that Safe Haven will do its best to provide quality care just like we promised and delivered in other Idaho communities like Wendell and Challis that every other provider (including nonprofits) shunned. Maybe Croy Canyon Ranch supporters should spend more time developing and explaining their proposal instead of finding fault with perceived competitors who are just trying to do the best with the limited resources available to them.

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