Pine Crest not in jeopardy
After nearly 90 minutes of discussion Tuesday night, the Lincoln County Board decided they had indeed engaged in a “serious conversation” on the future direction of Pine Crest Nursing Home. On a motion by supervisor E. Richard Simon, the board voted 14-8 to table a resolution brought by the Ad Hoc Committee.
The resolution sought a vote on whether the county board should engage in a serious conversation on the future direction of Pine Crest. Toward the end of the discussion, Supervisor Patsy Woller remarked, “I think we just had it.”
The resolution sparked fears among Pine Crest staff, residents and the community that the county was preparing the sell the facility to a private operator. Supervisor Arlene Meyer, a member of both the Ad Hoc Committee and the Pine Crest Board of Trustees, apologized if the public got the wrong impression.
“We just intended this to be a conversation,” she said. “We didn’t mean for it to put fear into the community.”
Many Pine Crest employees, holding “We Love Pine Crest” signs, attended the County Board meeting. Community members who addressed the board testified to the quality of care and the dedication of the Pine Crest employees.
“I think we all have something there in Lincoln County that we can all be proud of,” said Roger Strand, 88, of Merrill.
Thor Backus, a union organizer for AFSCME Council 40, noted that Pine Crest generates $23 million in economic activity.
“Keeping Pine Crest a public entity reduces the risk of losing that economic benefit,” Backus said.
Supervisor Bob Weaver, a Pine Crest trustee, pointed out that Pine Crest accounts for $359,000 on the county tax levy, or 3% of the county’s $12 million budget. The cost to taxpayers is $15 a year on a $100,000 home.
Supervisor Jim Alber said that’s cheap insurance to have a facility like Pine Crest available for those who cannot afford private nursing care.
“We have an obligation to take care of these people in their last days when they’re most vulnerable,” Alber said.
There was some discussion about Pine Crest’s quality rating by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The facility’s most recent rating is below average at 2 out of 5 stars. Pine Crest Administrator Tim Meehean explained that a resident had an accident at the facility in 2011, which resulted in a citation to Pine Crest. That incident knocked Pine Crest’s health inspections rating down to 1 star. Even though Pine Crest scored 5 stars in staffing and 4 stars in quality measures, the overall rating was only raised to 2 stars based on the rating formula.
Meehean said a discussion of Pine Crest would come down to just two questions: Should the county keep the facility or sell it; or, is it being run efficiently and effectively.
“If you do a management study on how we run this facility, you will find that it is the most efficiently run facility in the county,” Meehean said, adding that if the county board wants to study Pine Crest, they should study all county departments.
“Let’s do them all,” he said. “I’ll be the first one in line.”