Friday, June 7, 2013

County seeks assurances on senior care

Commissioners debate future standards for Safe Haven facility

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County is preparing to turn over the Blaine Manor skilled-nursing facility in Hailey, above, to privately operated Safe Haven Health Care. Photo by Roland Lane

     Blaine County commissioners discussed on Tuesday ways to ensure Safe Haven Health Care’s new eldercare facility—scheduled for completion next summer in Bellevue—provides the same high level of service the county has come to expect at the existing Blaine Manor nursing facility in Hailey.

     Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves presented the commission with a draft of a service agreement that is expected to be finalized in coming weeks, after further negotiations with Safe Haven CEO Scott Burpee.

     “Should we hold them to a certain level of care?” Graves said to the commission.

     At issue is the transition from the county-subsidized Blaine Manor facility to the privately operated Safe Haven facility. Commissioners voted earlier this year to transition senior care to Safe Haven and to turn over to the company Blaine Manor’s valuable Medicaid-Medicare license.

     Under the draft agreement, Safe Haven will receive a license from Blaine Manor to operate the new facility with no fewer than 16 dedicated Medicare/Medicaid-eligible, skilled-nursing beds for 10 years in Blaine County. The document also stipulates that Safe Haven “accommodate” and “foster a continuum of local senior care” within the new facility by coordinating with local community organizations and participating in local senior-care programs.

     Commissioner Larry Schoen supported the idea of writing into the document language that would enforce the terms of the agreement, with pro-rated financial penalties in case Safe Haven does not comply with the terms of the agreement at any time during the next 10 years.

      “We did not have an enforcement tool with Croy Canyon Ranch [a previous option considered by the county] and that was a mistake,” Schoen said.

     Graves will provide to the commission an appraisal of Blaine Manor’s existing operational assets that will be transferred to Safe Haven, including business property, patient records, a Medicare and Medicaid certification and the “good name” of Blaine Manor. These assets will be used to establish a monetary value that would have to be reimbursed to the county for any period of time Safe Haven is unable or unwilling to fulfill the contract.

     The penalty could include the cost of supplying skilled-nursing beds at private care costs, in case the new facility’s Medicare/Medicaid certification is revoked for any reason.

     Commissioner Angenie McLeary said it would be an “extreme loss” to the county if Safe Haven were not able to provide the expected services during the next 10 years. She recommended including a cash penalty if Safe Haven were not able to meet a specific “star rating” based on annual assessments made of eldercare facilities by the state of Idaho.

“We are going to do everything we can to accommodate the county.”
Scott Burpee
Safe Haven CEO

     Schoen said the star rating system was too “nebulous” to be used as a reliable indicator of the level of service that Safe Haven would provide.

     Commissioner Jacob Greenberg also disagreed with McCleary’s proposal, saying Blaine County “pays big” for the five-star rating it has today, and that Safe Haven may not be able to afford meeting the same standard.

     “It could be effective, but I am not sure Safe Haven will accept it,” Greenberg said.

     Blaine Manor board member Linda Haavik suggested instead relying on state-issued “deficiency tags” that are used to measure specific deficiencies in eldercare facilities, rather than the more controversial star ratings.

     Haavik said the tags are given for very specific reasons, and could be relied upon for a measure of the quality of care within specific services sectors at the new facility, such as skilled nursing.

     “The tags are public record,” she said.

     After the commissioners’ meeting, Haavik said in an interview that the Blaine Manor board had been satisfied that TanaBell Health Services, formerly an alternative candidate to Safe Haven, had the ability to meet the five-star rating held by Blaine Manor.

     “We have not seen the same ratings with Safe Haven,” she said.

     Safe Haven CEO Scott Burpee said in an interview that there were many reasons the star rating system has failed to accurately assess the level of care he has provided at existing eldercare facilities elsewhere in Idaho, and the level of care he intends to provide in Bellevue.

     “Yes, they will have an enforcement provision in the agreement and yes we will wrangle over it,” he said. “But we are going to do everything we can to accommodate the county.”

Tony Evans:

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