By Ron VandenBoom
The 25 residents of the Prairie Vista Manor nursing home in Big Sandy will be looking for a new home after June, 6 by order of the state of Montana.
Dave Sande, administrator for the home, said Wednesday morning that he received word during a conference call with state officials Tuesday afternoon that they were pulling the home's certification thus effectively ordering the facility to close.
Residents of Prairie Vista Manor will have 30 days in which to find a new place to live, Sande said.
The Big Sandy nursing home has been battling to improve conditions at the home since December when state investigators conducted a routine quality assurance inspection of the facility and discovered a long list of infractions.
"Everyone here has just been working our butts off to fix things," Sande said. "We're all just walking the halls in a daze this morning."
Sande said the rest home had undergone major changes in personnel and improvements since the first inspection in December and the second follow-up inspection in March.
For the last three weeks we have undergone weekly inspections by what Sandy called a monitoring team.
"We have been receiving glowing reports from the team every day," Sande said.
The conference call Tuesday came like "a ton of bricks, "Sande said, adding that he got the impression there had just been too much time pass in the eyes of the state and too little cooperation from the Northwest Senior Care Association an Oregon based nursing home company that leases Prairie Vista from Sande.
Sande just returned to the post of administrator in early May after the state issued a cease and desist order on May 4, ordering Charles Sipler, operations manager at the facility, to stop acting as a nursing home administrator until he obtained an appropriate license from the Montana Board of Nursing Home Administrators.
The action will impact 20 employees currently working at the home and 25 residents.
Sande described the economic ripple effect for Big Sandy as "tremendous."
Sande also described the impact to the residents of having to move as being traumatic and even dangerous.
"Many of the families have called me in tears," Sande said.
Sande was told that he can appeal the state's decision to pull the home's certification, but he is afraid that by the time the state reaches a decision on the issue it will be too late and he will be the administrator of nothing but an empty building.
Mike Hanshew, administrator of Senior and Long term Care for the state, said this morning that he has already spoken to the department's legal staff and they have agreed to expedite any appeal that might be made. But he did not hold out much hope that it would change anything.
Hanshew said his agency first surveyed Prairie Vista in December and found numerous infractions. He went on to say that they returned in March and little had been done to correct the original problems and the team even found additional problems.
The state then issued a "plan of correction," he said, but the sheer volume of problems indicated there were too many problems and too little time (6 months) in which to fix them.
Hanshew said his department offered Prairie Vista a list of agencies that had the expertise to assist in correcting the problems but, Hanshew said, only one individual was ever contacted and they were only there for a few days.
The state certification team returned on May 21 and unfortunately, Hanshew said, a number of areas remained deficient.
"They (the staff at Prairie Vista) had done a lot," Hanshew said. "But it was clear that they did not have the systems in place necessary to meet compliance."
Based on the recommendations of the survey team, Hanshew said he made a decision to pull the certification.
The impact of the decision on the community of Big Sandy was not a consideration, Hanshew said.
"We are not in the business of devastating communities," Hanshew said. "But that cannot be our primary consideration... we have to place the residents first."