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For the week of Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2003

News

Audit report shows shortfall in budget for Blaine Manor


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

An audit of Blaine Manorís finances, presented to the County Commissioners on Monday, showed that despite a taxpayer subsidy of $427,000 last year, the county-owned nursing home exceeded its fiscal 2002 budget by $206,000.

The deficit figure did not come as a surprise to any involved. However, the audit revived an ongoing debate between Commissioner Sarah Michael, an advocate of staff cuts at the facility, and nursing home managers, who say they are doing what they can to reduce inefficiencies.

Formerly part of the old Wood River Medical Center, the home began operating independently when St. Lukeís hospital was completed in November 2000. The county has been subsidizing its operations since then.

The county budgeted $403,000 for that purpose for fiscal 2003, which began Oct. 1. Blaine Manorís monthly finance reports showed that its expenses were 5 percent over estimates for December 2002 and 3 percent over for January 2003.

A financial review of the nursing home, completed in August by Rural Health Financial Services in Anacortes, Wash., at Michaelís request, suggested that Blaine Manor could reduce its staff from 35 employees to between 30 and 32. That could save as much as $152,000, the report stated.

"When an expert in the industry says weíre spending more than necessary, I think we need to have a public discussion on this," Michael said during Mondayís meeting.

But Michael found herself the lone dissenter, as Commissioner Mary Ann Mix, two members of the Blaine Manor Board of Trustees and Administrator Gail Goglia all defended the current operations.

"There is no wholesale way that you can cut these numbers down and still get the work done," Goglia said.

The facilityís defenders pointed to the local high cost of living, a need to hire temporary nurses from out of the area and better-than-average food as reasons for higher costs.

The debate may become moot if Blaine Manor is expanded from a 25-bed facility to a 95-bed one, as is proposed. All involved agree that at its current size, the home is doomed to a certain amount of inefficiency.

Blaine Manorís administration is involved in negotiations to buy a parcel of land near Hailey, at a below-market price, to build a new nursing home. Faus Geiger Corlett, the homeís director of development, said in an interview that she expects the negotiations to be completed in about two weeks, pending the results of an appraisal. She said that if all goes as planned, construction will begin in 2004.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.