Following a decision Tuesday to accept Pocatello-based Safe Haven Health Care’s proposal to build a skilled nursing facility in Bellevue, the Blaine County commissioners are now faced with filling in the details of how that process will proceed.
The proposal included the county’s transferring Blaine Manor’s skilled nursing facility license and Medicare/Medicaid certification to Safe Haven. In return, Safe Haven will take over operation of Blaine Manor by October, when the funds from a two-year $1.9 million levy to fund Blaine Manor’s operating shortfall will run out.
Safe Haven CEO Scott Burpee said Tuesday that he hopes to transfer as many patients and staff as possible from Blaine Manor to the new 80-bed Bell Mountain facility—provided they wish to be transferred.
Burpee and project manager Dave Hennessy will negotiate with county commissioners and staff on the terms of a service agreement that will govern how the transition is to proceed.
Commissioner Angenie McCleary, who voted to reject Blaine Manor’s proposal, said she viewed the negotiations as a chance to ensure quality of care at the new facility.
Commissioners Jacob Greenberg and Larry Schoen have both said they believed Safe Haven could provide safe and compassionate care, Schoen vehemently so, saying he disagreed with the “focus” on Safe Haven’s low survey results and some negative public comments.
“We should be instilling confidence in Safe Haven,” he said. “They have a good operating record, they have won awards, the people I have spoken with are very happy with the level of care.”
Schoen said more expensive facilities could include more amenities, but Safe Haven would provide good quality care that would be affordable for Blaine County residents.
“What Safe Haven will offer will be very suitable and acceptable to the broadest base of our population,” he said. “And it will [offer services] without public subsidy.”
McCleary said in an interview Thursday that she still has major concerns about quality of care, concerns she hopes can be addressed in negotiations with Safe Haven.
“I will certainly be looking for as many ways as possible to ensure that the care will be safe and compassionate care,” she said. “I am less optimistic that we can ensure quality of care, but [the agreement] is our best vehicle to attempt it.”
McCleary said one way to ensure quality of care could be to require staffing levels at Safe Haven above state and federal regulations. She said she would need to discuss the specific details with Burpee and county staff.
“I imagine that is the kind of thing we will be talking about,” she said.
One idea proposed by members of the public is a community board to oversee operations at the new facility, such as the one that currently oversees Blaine Manor. Schoen suggested an ombudsman could be appointed from the health care community to ensure that someone is holding the facility accountable.
“Much was made of local control and local involvement,” he said.
Burpee said he has had citizen advisory boards at some of his facilities before, but that he wasn’t sure how such a board would be helpful. He said the state requires each of his facilities to have a resident council made up of residents and potentially their families, which would have some oversight over operations and which would be able to make complaints if required.
“They always talk about meals,” he said with a laugh.
Burpee said he remained open to the idea of working with the Blaine Manor board and giving it a chance to air concerns.
“Certainly they have a history to be proud of, and we don’t want to undermine that,” he said. “I disagreed with a lot of the things they said [in public meetings], but I understand their motives.”
Burpee said he would also be willing to agree to a certain number of skilled nursing-level care beds for a limited amount of time, as well as some sort of guarantee that the facility will take patients relying on public subsidy to pay for their care.
Meanwhile, the future of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation remains unclear. Executive Director Kathleen Eder said Wednesday that even though it is too early to tell what the foundation will do, it would likely try to move forward with a new facility.
“We need to have another board meeting, we need to regroup, and we need to communicate with our donors,” she said. “But we always felt there is an ability to go on.”
Schoen said Thursday that he does not see any way that the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation or any other outside entity would receive the proceeds from the sale of the Blaine Manor building.
However, the organization may be able to keep the 20 acres of land in Croy Canyon on which it planned to build a facility, which Schoen said could allow it to find outside financing for its tiered-care senior community.
“There is a question mark over the disposition of the land,” he said. “But they have significant equity, they have every opportunity to move forward and create a wonderful nonprofit facility.”