Wednesday, April 18, 2012

County ponders senior-care alliance

2 organizations clash over who ought to be considered


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

This is an artistís rendering of the proposed Safe Haven Health Care facility planned for a site in Bellevue. Courtesy graphic

The debate over what constitutes quality skilled-nursing care heated up again Monday as a member of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation board urged Blaine County commissioners not to consider supporting any skilled-nursing provider that didn't receive at least a three out of five-star rating on the most recent Medicare surveys.

"Blaine Manor is an exceptional care facility," said Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation Campaign Chair Anita McCann, adding that the facility received five out of five stars on last year's annual survey. "That's a very rare quality, and it's the kind of care I want to see continue in this valley."

Limiting the county's skilled-nursing options to only those companies that scored three out of five stars or higher would have eliminated Safe Haven Health Care, based in Pocatello, from even submitting further information on how it could partner with the county to provide skilled nursing in the community. Safe Haven is currently planning to build a new senior-care facility in the Bellevue area.

According to www.Medicare.gov, which lists ratings, inspection results and the number of complaints a nursing home received over the past year, the Safe Haven facility in Pocatello—the only skilled-nursing facility the company operates—received two out of five stars overall. The facility also received one out of five stars on its health inspection surveys, with 23 deficiencies identified.

Blaine Manor was cited with seven deficiencies.

However, Safe Haven scored much higher than Blaine Manor on a segment of the survey described as "Quality Measures," which rates residents' health, physical functioning, mental status and general well-being. Blaine Manor scored two out of five on that part of the survey, while Safe Haven received five stars.

Safe Haven CEO Scott Burpee stated during the meeting that part of the reason for the overall rating discrepancy was that last year was difficult financially for all nursing homes in the state.

"The state cut all of our money off," he said. "All of it, and for months. But Blaine Manor had the county's support. The criteria should be whether you were able to stay in business [last year], not how well you did on a survey."

McCann said in a later interview that neither Blaine Manor's low quality measures rating nor Burpee's assertion are significant.

"The overall rating [for Blaine Manor] is high, and that's what we're looking for," she said. "There are eight factors taken into consideration when they do a Medicare rating. Safe Haven had areas that were more dubious, where the ratings were low."

Commissioner Tom Bowman stated during the meeting that he didn't feel that limiting the county's options for skilled nursing was the answer.

"If you get a low score, you have something to improve upon," he said. "I don't want to assume that experience will dictate what happens in the future."

Commissioner Angenie McCleary said that in most cases, the county's requirement that a company be able to provide "safe, compassionate care" should eliminate unqualified companies.

County Administrator Derek Voss said he would put the final touches on the county's request for information and send it out to Idaho's 79 skilled-nursing facilities in the near future.

Ideally, he said, the form—which asks facilities to list their ownership type, corporate structure, experience, Medicare ratings and complaints over the past five years—will be sent out at the beginning of next month.

McCleary said she hopes to move forward to the next step in the process by the beginning of July. Bowman said the timeline, though tight, would allow for the county to ask on the November ballot whether taxpayers want to help fund senior care in Blaine County.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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