By a 2-to-1 vote Tuesday, the Blaine County commissioners approved an agreement to turn over operation of Blaine Manor to Safe Haven Healthcare for a year until the company opens its new 80-bed facility in Bellevue. At that time, skilled nursing will be included there with assisted- and independent-living quarters.
“Getting the county out of skilled nursing has been a goal since the hospital merger and the agreement by the county to take over skilled nursing, and it’s been a challenge to figure out how best to do that,” Commissioner Larry Schoen said during a meeting Tuesday at the old County Courthouse in Hailey. “I believe that Safe Haven is a good, respected, responsible operator in the field and that they will do a good job in Blaine County.”
The agreement includes the following provisions:
l A lease of Blaine Manor at no rent for one year, for $2,000 per month for two months after that period and for $10,000 per month after that.
“It is expected that [Safe Haven Healthcare] will occupy the leased premises for several months before moving into a new facility in Bellevue,” the agreement states.
l That Safe Haven include at least 16 Medicaid skilled-nursing beds at its facility for at least 10 years.
l That Safe Haven commit to maintaining a Medicaid rating of at least three stars during that period and to receive no “immediate jeopardy” tags from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. If it fails in either of those areas, it promises to enact a plan to remedy the problem. If it does not do so, it will pay the county a pro-rata share of the operational assets, which are valued at $600,000. That includes $300,000 for Medicaid certification, $150,000 for inventory and assets and $150,000 for goodwill.
Blaine Manor board member Linda Haavik pointed out at the meeting that the provision means the county’s enforcement ability will decrease each year.
l That all Blaine Manor employees have the opportunity to apply for jobs with Safe Haven, and Safe Haven shall consider all qualified applicants. All other Blaine Manor employees will be terminated by Sept. 30.
The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Angenie McCleary, who said she is dissatisfied with the enforcement provisions of the contract. In an interview, McCleary said she would like to have seen bigger penalties. She said the county may well obtain the quality of care that it expects, “but the agreement by itself is not going to ensure it.”
“One of the reasons I was opposed to an option like Safe Haven from the beginning is that there’s just not a lot of room for negotiations,” she said.
During the meeting, Tom Rhinevault, secretary-treasurer of the Committee to Save Blaine Manor, which had opposed the transition, said that after discussing the contract with Commissioner Jacob Greenberg in early July, “We’re convinced that the agreement should go forward.”
In an interview, Rhinevault said he had been pleased to see some extra enforcement provisions added to an earlier draft of the agreement and believed the county had done all it could. He also said his wife, Cynthia Rhinevault, a nurse and case manager at Blaine Manor, was impressed by Safe Haven administrators who met with the staff there.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that Safe Haven’s going to do a good job,” he said.
Greenberg said that even though the county and Safe Haven had been “sparring” during negotiations, at this point he considers the company to be a partner. However, he told Safe Haven representatives at the Tuesday meeting that the community will be closely monitoring the quality of care.
“If the community is there to say it’s a good facility, you’ll be successful,” he said. “If people say it’s a bad facility, the likelihood is that you won’t be successful.”