Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nursing-home talks get more complex

County leaders direct staff to conduct legal analysis

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County commissioners directed their legal staff on Tuesday to begin an analysis of any potential legal issues involved in three proposals for skilled-nursing facilities in the county.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary asked Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves to begin an overview of potential legal problems with proposals from Pocatello-based TanaBell Health Services, Pocatello-based Safe Haven Health Care and the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation before the board evaluates the proposals themselves.

McCleary said a legal overview of the proposals would be helpful in choosing which of the proposals would work best for Blaine County.

However, Graves said that despite discussions in previous county meetings, he doesn’t initially see any legal issues that would disqualify any of the proposals outright.

“They can all be massaged or tweaked to fit within legal parameters,” he said. “Each model is going to require some tweaking when a model is chosen. They are all going to have challenges.”

The first proposal, put forth by TanaBell Health Services, proposed joining forces with Blaine Manor to improve efficiency and reduce overhead while adding assisted living units in an older, unused part of the Blaine Manor building. 

The proposal would require a $6 million levy and a lease-to-purchase agreement between TanaBell and the county. TanaBell proposed an initial contract of five years, with a 10-year extension if Blaine County is satisfied with the service.

The second proposal was put forth by Safe Haven Health Care and includes both assisted living and skilled nursing care. The only request from Safe Haven CEO Scott Burpee was that the company be allowed to buy Blaine Manor’s nursing home license.

The third is a proposal by the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation for a tiered-care facility west of Hailey that would include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing. The organization has requested a $29.5 million general obligation bond for construction and to cover initial operating losses.

The commissioners will conduct site visits on Monday, Dec. 10, in Idaho Falls and Pocatello.

One challenge brought forth by Commissioner Jacob Greenberg was the issue of how to dispose of Blaine Manor’s nursing home license. Greenberg said he was concerned that the license, a public asset, might need to be put out to bid rather than simply transferred to any of the companies—each of which has said it would be interested in taking over the license and Blaine Manor’s Medicare/Medicaid certification.

Graves said he believes that as the license would be tied to a service agreement between the owners of the successful proposal and the county, it would likely not need to be put out to bid. However, he said all the proposals have this type of legal issue attached.

“There are going to be a lot of those technical issues going forward,” he said.

Commissioner Larry Schoen said during the last public meeting on skilled nursing two weeks ago that he is concerned about the county’s ability to pass a general obligation bond for a facility that includes independent living, such as Croy Canyon Ranch. During Tuesday’s meeting, he also expressed concern that the Blaine Manor building itself might need to be put up for auction as a public asset.

Schoen said that if the TanaBell proposal is chosen and an auction is necessary, “We have to evaluate [Tanabell’s] ability to be successful in that auction.”

McCleary said that once the legal analysis is complete, she will schedule time on the board’s agendas for further evaluation and risk analysis of each of the proposals. Those meetings will also follow site visits of a TanaBell facility in Pocatello and a Safe Haven facility in Idaho Falls, where commissioners will be able to see facilities similar to the ones proposed for Blaine County.

McCleary said a site visit had been proposed for a Greystone community in Boise, built and managed by the company that has partnered with the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation. However, she said that the facility has not yet been built in Boise and the nearest similar facility is in Billings, Mont.

“The purpose of the site visit was to see the care provided by each facility,” she said. “At this point, I am not going to schedule time for the board to go out of state.”

Schoen and McCleary both said they would like to get an idea of the market demand for skilled nursing beds in the county, since the market analysis differs from proposal to proposal.

The commissioners will conduct site visits on Monday, Dec. 10, in Idaho Falls and Pocatello. No time has been set for completion of the preliminary legal analysis.

Kate Wutz:

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