Monroe Care Center receives five-star rating

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK The Monroe County Care Center is celebrating its recent five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Since the center was decertified in 2015, the county has renovated the facility and rebuilt the staff and policy. Enjoying the good news are, from left, Starla Rose, facility rehabilitation director; Geania Conger, environmental services; Trisha Tidcumb, activities adviser; Sheila Silva, activities staff; Lois Starr, daughter of a resident; Marlana Hart, social service admission; county Commissioner Mick Schumacher; and, in back, J.J. Huffman, maintenance supervisor.

WOODSFIELD — Four years after losing its certification to accept and treat many patients, the Monroe County Care Center is now ranked among the very best nursing facilities in the nation.

The 166-year-old provider of professional rehabilitation and nursing services lost its certification to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients in 2015, but it was recertified in 2017 and received a feather in its cap in April with a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

With the center now at half-capacity in terms of resident population and still looking for more staff, the five-star designation is expected to attract more residents and quality employees.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, nursing homes with five stars are considered to have “much above average quality” while nursing homes with one star are considered to be far below average.

County Commissioner Mick Schumacher said the unfavorable 2015 survey that led to decertification cited issues including medication that was being administered after its best-used-by date had passed and concerns about hand washing. When the county could not make the required improvements in time, the center was decertified and lost its ability to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments.

“We’ve been trying to get re-certified, get up and running. We were operating with just private pay individuals,” he said.

Amenities available at the center include: Subacute nursing services, restorative function programs, agile art revoko–interactive from Ohio State University, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, seven visiting physicians, podiatrist, dental service, vision service, hearing service, free seasonal menus, snacks, alternatives, telephone hookup in each room, enclosed courtyard with picnic facilities and bird feeders, TTY/VCO hearing impaired phone, free laundry, free basic cable, free wi-fi, free housekeeping. Each room has a restroom and vanity sink, and there are private and semi-private rooms.

Daily and weekly activities include: Bingo, exercise, community van trips/outings, entertainment, church services, social/news hours, crafts/cooking, cards and board games.

The health care consulting firm LeaderStat was hired by the county and oversaw the recertification process at a cost of $22,000 per month. Schumacher said the county has invested about $6 million in the center’s recovery so far.At recent commission meetings, the county auditor’s office as cautioned commissioners about spending due to the large expense.

“It’s been a costly endeavor,” Schumacher said. “I thought we’d have all this back in the black right now, and we haven’t, but we are working very diligently to get this turned back around. I think the community needs it. I think public opinion is in our favor. A number of county residents have spoken favorably about what we’re doing, and the fact that we do need a choice for our residents. That’s very important.”

Schumacher acknowledged, though, that the cost of saving the center has been a challenge for the county.

“The commissioners have been subsidizing the facility,” Schumacher said, adding that increased sales tax revenue from the oil and gas industry was crucial to the county’s ability to assist the center. “It’s been a concern to me, and it’s been a concern to a lot of other elected officials because if it had not been for oil and gas, we would not have had the ability to do this.”

Expenses incurred at the center include a new elevator at a cost of about $100,000 and upgrades to the fire service and the security system. Other items such as sprinklers, which had been grandfathered in when the facility opened, had to be upgraded after the center lost its certification.

“I feel that preserving the facility and the jobs and the business is important,” Schumacher said.

He noted that the chief remaining challenges are the center’s need to reach it residential capacity and the need to hire more state-tested nursing assistants.

Schumacher added that in the near future, the board of commissioners plans to form a committee of volunteer county residents with backgrounds in business, banking, pharmacy and other fields to act as an advisory board for matters related to the center.

Jessica Price helms the care center as its its administrator. Schumacher said she is a former LeaderStat employee. Price said she has 14 years of experience in the nursing home industry, filling roles in the business office and as an administrator. She commented on the progress of the center.

“You couldn’t get any more rock bottom at that point,” she said of the center at the time it lost its certification. “Going from rock-bottom to the top is remarkable.”

“I’ve been here six months, so the moment that I started, we were in our survey window, meaning that the survey team could come in at any time,” she said.

When the inspectors arrived, Price said they commended the center on its management of medical issues, care of residents and cleanliness of the kitchen.

The center is currently at about half capacity with 35 residents. It can house up to 60 people.

“Since our five-star rating has been out in all the local hospitals, we are receiving an influx of referrals. I anticipate our building being filled very quickly. Hospitals want to send their patients to five-star facilities,” Price said.

She noted, however, that staffing is a challenge.

“Six STNAs at this time is our goal. We have just recently hired five,” Price said. “We have to have the staffing in order to bring in residents.”

Price said options to attract qualified employees include a wage increase. She is also talking with area colleges that offer STNA classes in hopes that they can provide assistance and possible candidates for future employment.

“There’s a shortage across everywhere. It’s a tough job,” Price said.

Margaret Dalrymple has been a resident of the center since June 2018. She is originally from Antioch.

“I think it’s great. I don’t know where you’d go that it would be any better. You have good food, you’re well taken care of,” Dalrymple said of the facility, adding that the staff responds quickly to any need.

The property has a long history in the area, which Dalrymple recalls.

“My mom and dad was here. Both of them,” she said, adding that the facility cared for her mother in the 1990s, when her mother was a resident suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Her father was also a resident.

Dalrymple serves as the resident council president. She said the other residents express satisfaction with the care center.

“They’ve been working at it, and they’ve earned it,” Barbara Reid of Lewisville said regarding the five-star rating.

Reid was a temporary resident from Feb. 8 to March 8. She shared some details about her circumstances.

“The Monroe County Care Center is exceptional. It’s clean, it’s professional, it’s pleasant. … When you’re 70 years old and you’ve fallen and dislocated and fractured an ankle, and you’re helpless and can’t do anything on your own, it is extraordinary to have a staff that’s right there, right now, with a smile on their face.”

Lois Starr of the Woodsfield area is the daughter of resident Merle Williamson, who needs assistance with memory issues. Starr said she is impressed by the center.

“She’s been here a couple of years,” Starr said of her mother. “It’s one of the nicest (facilities).”

“It’s been a rough road with all the changes that we had in the past three or four years. … I think everyone’s done a good job being able to adapt,” Misty Blackstone, environmental supervisor, said. She has worked at the center for 20 years. “We believe in this place. It’s been here for over 100 years, so we’ve done something right.”

The Monroe County Care Center is located at 47045 Moore Ridge Road, Woodsfield. It can be reached by phone at 740-472-0144.