Concerned family members and the Bradley County Commission received clarification concerning recent changes during a Commission work session Monday.
The implementation of the Choices program by the state has led to fewer people being approved to stay at the nursing home.
Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters said a decrease in revenue has the facility’s board looking at ways to reduce costs and bring in more revenue. The board is also looking to keep from cutting staff positions, which would affect the level of care of all patients.
The board’s current plan is to discontinue having a separate wing for Alzheimer’s patients and assimilating them into the rest of the facility.
“That Alzheimer’s unit is a unit that is secure; only Alzheimer’s patients are there. The recommendation was to move from that to setting up a center for rehabilitation where there could be more opportunities for not only service to the community ... (but the) opportunity for more short-term patients … which will help with the revenue,” Winters said.
Winters said patients would continue to receive quality care in the facility regardless of which wing they are moved to.
“We were given a feeling of confidence that the individuals would be cared for,” Winters said.
Start-up costs to convert the area have been estimated to be at least $10,000. Total renovation costs are unknown.
First District Commissioner Ed Elkins said he would have preferred some discussion before plans were publicized.
“I would ask that our board members and our chairman really take a hard look at the financial aspects of this ... before they proceed too much further with this,” Elkins said.
Chairman for the Bradley Healthcare Board John Stanbery said the facility is the only one in the area with a separate, secure wing for Alzheimer’s patients.
“By doing this we would actually be coming in line with the current thought process of most of the health care community,” Stanbery said.
Making the change will allow a Medicaid or Medicare patient to fill that bed. In past audits, it has been repeatedly suggested that every bed in the facility be dually certified.
“Almost every facility in the state is dually certified on all their beds,” Stanbery said. “That part of the change is just something we have to do to be competitive in this environment.”
Instead of secure separate rooms, care is moving toward a Sunshine Room model. The multiple occupancy room provides direct care with someone in the room to care for the patients at all times.
“Our staffing at the nursing home is higher than the staffing at any other nursing home in the area,” Stanbery said. “We will not be eliminating any of these employees, they will simply be moved out to other areas.”
County residents with family members in the Alzheimer’s wing expressed concern at the change.
Joe Bell, whose mother is an Alzheimer’s patient at the facility, said changing the atmosphere for care would be difficult for the patients.
Community member Jerry Brantley, whose mother is an Alzheimer’s patient at the facility said the wing is always full, filling 29 beds. She questioned the wisdom of expanding rehabilitation at the facility when many facilities in the area already compete for short-term rehabilitation patients.
Stanbery said there is more competition in the rehabilitation services field because more revenue is generated than with long-term care.
“I wish we would be more careful in allowing people at least the opportunity to have input before we make decisions that come out in the paper,” Brantley said. “You could have let the people on the floor know.”
Stanbery said open meetings laws in Tennessee do not allow the board to discuss things in private.
“I think anyone making that decision should go up there and hang out at least two or three days a week,” said Kermit Peak, whose aunt is in the facility.
The family members said having Alzheimer’s patients in the main areas is not a good idea. Stanbery emphasized the entire building is secure, requiring a key code to get in or out.
With the statewide implementation of the Choices program, more patients are being referred to at-home care. This has led to a decrease in the number of patients.
Every family of patients in the wing has been contacted. Most of the families approved of the change.
“We are going to try to do everything we can do to make this as comfortable as possible,” Stanbery said.
Also during the meeting:
- A request to rezone land from High Density Residential (R-2) to Agricultural Residential (FAR) on Charlie Swanner Road in the 6th District was placed on the voting agenda for next week. The request is being made by Tony Hudson. The land would be used for poultry houses if the rezoning request is approved.
- A resolution to approve moving forward with applying for a Community Development Block Grant for a water line extension in the 4th District was also placed on the agenda.
“If we have a $5,000 block grant, I’m wondering if all of that has to go in one area or if that can be spread in several places,” Elkins said.
Legislative assistant to the Commission Amy Moore explained the grant had to meet certain socioeconomic guidelines to be approved. The grants are usually designated for a specific area. Elkins said there are two areas in the 1st District that could use financial assistance with putting in a water system.
Third District Commissioner Jeff Morelock asked if a grant could be applied for these areas. Moore said this might be a possibility. Moore said the county usually qualifies to apply for this competitive grant every three years. According to information from the Southeast Tennessee Development District, the county can only have one Community Development Block Grant at a time.
An open meeting was held by the Southeast Tennessee Development District in November to gather ideas for projects. The water line extension was the only project presented at that time. The idea was passed on to Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, who submitted it to the Commission. Ocoee Utility District would be contributing $487,000 toward the project. Additional money would also come from the state.
Fourth District commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones suggested the Commission invite a representative from the Ocoee Development district to talk at the next meeting.
- Kim Ledford asked the Commission to support her bill, called “Dustin’s Law.” The law named in memory of her son who was killed by someone driving while intoxicated, would change the charge for someone convicted of causing a fatal DUI wreck who does not have a prior offense. If the person has a .20 blood-alcohol content or higher in his or her system, the charge would change from the current vehicular homicide to aggravated vehicular homicide. This would mean more jail time. Additionally, someone with a blood alcohol content of .08 and testing positive for methamphetamine would be guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide.
“I’m asking you to send a resolution to the governor in support of our law,” Ledford said.
Sixth District Commissioner Robert Rominger said he would have a resolution to support the law prepared for the Commission’s voting session.
- Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth submitted a letter in support of the Commission’s request to state and federal representatives to uphold the rights outlines in the Second Amendment. Ruth said he hoped the letter would be attached to the resolution when it was presented to legislatures.
- Commission Chairman Louie Alford suggested that the finance committee look at the current animal control contract with the city. The contract is up for renewal. Alford said he felt there were some terms of the contract that could be renegotiated. The contract will automatically renew if no action is taken.