Wednesday, June 13, 2012

County: We need help on senior care

Commissioners request Manor board’s assistance

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County commissioners asked for the Blaine Manor board of trustees' help in finding a skilled-nursing care solution after discussing three possible concepts Tuesday but finding no solid solution.

"What we have here are all the elements of a successful proposal, but they are not in any singular proposal," Commissioner Tom Bowman said.

Bowman said his perfect solution would be that a private entity build a stand-alone facility in Blaine County and take over management of Blaine Manor in Hailey while the new facility is being built. In exchange, he said, the facility would be able to take advantage of Blaine Manor's license and built-in client base.

"We just don't have everything put together for this vision," he said.

The county has three concepts to consider. The first, from the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, envisions a tiered-care facility owned by a nonprofit corporation that would take over the manor's license and clients but would also require a 35-year $29.5 million general obligation bond for construction and other costs.

The second, from Pocatello-based TanaBell Health Services, would take over management of Blaine Manor and seek to have the facility turn a profit by cutting overhead and increasing revenue. The county would continue to own the facilities and would split any profit or loss with TanaBell, though the company anticipates that the facility would break even in the short term.

The third is from Safe Haven Health Care, which is based in Pocatello. Safe Haven is already planning to build a stand-alone tiered-care facility outside of Bellevue, but requested that the county transfer Blaine Manor's license to the new facility and has also requested "limited" public funding.

The problem, Bowman said, is partly that none of the concepts propose a solution for the entire length of time needed.

"It's not clear what [Tanabell] has as a mid-term [solution]," he said. "Safe Haven has a mid-term, but not a short-term. Croy has the whole package, but it might not be attainable."

The main hurdle for the Croy Canyon Ranch proposal is the $29.2 million general obligation bond, which would need to be placed on the November ballot and approved by two-thirds of Blaine County voters.

In addition, Commissioner Larry Schoen balked at the idea of asking taxpayers to continue senior care support.

"Now the taxpayers are being asked to fund $30 million in subsidy, and this is very concerning," he said. "If the model is sustainable and viable, why does it require, in our small community, such a large subsidy?"

Commissioner Angenie McCleary said that while voters have been supportive of bonds and even the Blaine Manor levy in the past, she's not sure this one would be as successful.

"I don't know that the public would vote to continue public support for 30 years," she said, but added, "I do see that as a viable option based on the proposals in front of us."

Al Stevenson, Sun Valley resident and former administrator of the Moritz Community Hospital and St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, said perhaps the county should consider all of the proposals.

"We have some good proposals, but it's a little bit of apples and oranges and tangerines," he said, but urged the county to consider putting the general obligation bond on a ballot before assuming that voters won't support it.

Bowman said he would like to see a concept from the Blaine Manor board of trustees, even if it's just a response to the concepts the board already has in front of it.

"If the goal here is to have stable, skilled nursing in our county, we have to all put aside our egos and say, 'What assets do we have here?'" Bowman said.

The Blaine Manor board is set to meet with the commissioners this week, while County Administrator Derek Voss draws up a draft request for proposals to send to TanaBell, Safe Haven and the Croy Canyon Ranch.

A date for further public discussion has yet to be determined.

Katherine Wutz:

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