Baptist Homes Offers to Take Over Salt River Nursing Home
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By Marlana Smith
Salt River Community Care nursing home Board of Directors Chairman Jerry Myers told the Shelby County Herald on Monday, January 30, 2023, that Baptist Homes contacted him on Thursday, January 26, stating that the Baptist Homes Healthcare and Ministries (BHHM) executive committee voted unanimously to offer a management agreement to Salt River Community Care.
The decision to offer a management agreement came after a nearly two-hour community meeting was held to discuss what is next for Salt River Community Care, which is a tax-supported nursing home in Shelbina. Baptist Homes Healthcare and Ministries and Salt River Board of Directors opened the floor to the community for questions regarding the possible change of ownership of the Salt River facility.
Approximately 160 people nearly filled the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Shelbina on Thursday at 1:00 p.m.
Baptist Homes Healthcare and Ministries President and CEO Rodney Harrison said the Baptist Homes mission is a distinctive Christian ministry called to joyfully serve in a Christlike manner by educating, advocating, and caring for the aging in the Glory of God.
Baptist Homes has been established for 110 years, with the vision of making Christlike ministry the standard of care for the aging. Baptist Homes is a non-profit organization.
“As of today, there has been no legal documents in any way shape or form transmitted. We have been in a discovery period where we are trying to get to know each other,” said BHHM CEO Rodney Harrison. “Today is a day to get to try and know one another in the community a little bit better.”
“One thing that we’ve learned is that we have to have churches and community support if we are to make this work,” said Harrison.
According to Harrison, during the management period the tax money would still go toward the building because Baptist Homes doesn’t own it. It only goes to the physical structure.
“Once a change of ownership would take place, the tax money goes away, and we are fully operating. During that time, again, it’s only used for the capital indentures not for employment and things of that nature.
“The accounts, and accounting all stays with Salt River until such time there would be a change, potentially in ownership,” Harrison explained.
The Baptist Homes board was scheduled to hold an executive meeting following the meeting in Shelbina. Harrison stated, the meeting will determine whether they are able to take the next step.
Harrison said, the next step would be to make investments, where BHHM spends money on it. Which means getting a civil engineer to come and do a diligent inspection of Salt River. Also, getting the attorneys to write up agreements and things of that nature.
“As we begin that process that would then potentially move to a management transaction around April 1. All of that would be predicated upon our board saying let’s move forward,” Harrison continued. “This is what we believe the Lord’s Will is and the Salt River Board saying we believe we should move forward.
“We are listening to the community, we value the voices that help inform this decision. At the end of the day, I do want to say this. What I appreciate about the Salt River Board, and what I appreciate about Baptist Homes, is that we share the common conviction.
“We desire to keep the mission of the Salt River Nursing Home alive. Keep it alive in a season where our industry has been in many cases brought to its knees. We are wanting to keep that vision alive,” Harrison stated.
“People ask ‘What could Baptist Homes do that is different?’” Harrison said. “A lot of it is going to be the same.”
What is a little bit different is Baptist Homes tends to draw from affinity.
“One of the reasons nursing homes get into a crisis is census goes down. We view every empty bed as a missed missionary opportunity. At the end, if you have empty beds, you don’t have the revenue to pay the staff, things of that nature,” Harrison said.
“Another aspect is having a partnership with the community for staffing.”
A panel discussion was offered during the meeting. Four individuals were on the stage answering questions regarding SRCC and Baptist Homes including Baptist Homes Vice President for Community Engagements Ron Mackey, Harrison, Transitional Administrator Penny Kampeter at Tri-County Care Center in Vandalia, and Salt River Board Chairman Jerry Myers.
Myers, who has been serving on the Salt River Board since 1999, was the first panelest to address the meeting.
“There are several factors that have brought us to this point today being the staffing, another issue, low resident count. COVID really hit us hard. We dropped down into the high 40s. We really need to be 70-some. We are around 55 today,” Salt River Board Chairman Jerry Myers explained.
Other factors that impacted Salt River’s decision to move forward with this is the wages. According to Myers, Salt River increased its wages three times in the last two years.
“Not begrudging giving them to the employees because they certainly deserve them. We had to meet competition from the local convenience stores, the new stores that are popping up all the time, that are paying a considerable amount,” Myers said.
“During the last six months, the board had to make some really hard and tough decisions, and they continue to do so.
“We are still in this talking stage. No papers have been signed – nothing of that sort,” said Myers.
According to Myers, SRCC looked to the Baptist Homes for a couple of reasons; they are non-profit being one of them.
“Their number one reason was resident care. Salt River has been here for 50 years, and we would like for them to continue for another 50 years,” Myers stated.
According to Mackey, he and Harrison have received 30 to 40 inquiries weekly about opportunities to consider other homes to merge with.
“Salt River is in better shape, financially, physically, culturally than any other home we have looked at. I just want to say that on behalf of this board,” said Baptist Homes Vice President for Community Engagements Ron Mackey.
Mackey said, “You ask, why on earth would they be talking to us?”
According to Mackey, COVID accelerated a great paradigm shift in long term care. Long term care was going to be facing a crisis in staffing sooner rather than later as most of the staff aged out into retirement. The educational system was not preparing people for long term care service.
Mackey said, what Baptist Homes brings is the culture, the Christlike care, but they also have an extra layer of eyes and ears to be behind the scenes, helping the local staff figure out the process.
“I just want you to know we are not here because Salt River is about to close. With Vandalia, that was the case. It was probably within a month, or one more payroll and they weren’t going to make it,” Mackey explained. “It was an emergency basis. We just had to accelerate everything to help them and it worked.”
Baptist Homes Takeover of Tri-County Nursing Home
Kampeter said the Tri-County’s board voted to close the last Friday of July 2022. Baptist Homes entered a management agreement and it took effect on September 1, 2022.
“I call them heroes. Angels is more like it,” expressed Transitional Administrator at Tri-County Care Center Penny Kampeter.
Kampeter discussed all the issues the facility was going through just four months ago.
“We didn’t have a Director of Nurses, an RN, in our building. We had a horrible state survey in February 2022, significant CMP fines, which we couldn’t pay. We had two LPN’s,” Kampeter explained.
Kampeter said word got out that Tri-County was going to close, residents started moving out, and staff started leaving. Things went from bad to worse.
“Four months later, it is still unbelievable to me, and somewhat of a miracle,” Kampeter expressed.
“Not only did they bring financial support that we needed. Their faith, their courage, their strength, their management team came in. They had corporate nurses, RNs come into the building. Once they got in our building, the community supported them, the staff supported, everyone there could not thank them enough.”
According to Kampeter, Tri-County now has a wonderful Director of Nurses, three full-time RNs and four LPNs. They are down to one part-time agency LPN that works a weekend program.
“It has been through the support and the knowledge from Baptist Homes that has brought us back. Most importantly, they have given us security,” said Kampeter.
Community Asks Questions
Q: “When you say taking over the facility, does this mean you are becoming owners of the property, or will it stay in the current board that is here?” asked James Seago, Pastor of Crooked Creek Baptist Church.
Harrison responded, it would be a six-month management agreement. They would get to know the culture and have the opportunity to extend the agreement for another six months, which in that time BHHM would transition the ownership over. They would then purchase the facility for $1.
“There is no profit right now in long-term care. If it wasn’t for our benevolence and donations that have come in the Baptist Homes would not be in existence. That is just plain and simple,” said Harrison. “If we were to end up in a management agreement at the one-year point, we would then want to be able to purchase and move into where it would be probably ‘Baptist Homes Salt River.’”
Myers said, “It is my understanding that at the end of the year they will purchase it for $1. Also, in that contract, I understand that if Baptist Homes for some reason wants to leave, they will sell it back to the district for $1.”
Harrison said that $1 agreement would be for a period of time. Eventually, the agreement would expire.
“The way that contract works at the end of it – once we purchased it – let’s say (if) this is not working two years later (and) we decided to pull out, and would then guarantee to sell it back to the county. Those covenants would be in the contract,” Harrison explained.
“I just want to say I have really appreciated the care that Salt River has given my mother,” said Ann Neubauer. Her mother is a resident at Salt River Community Care.
Q: Neubauer asked, if Salt River right now isn’t able to make it with the tax money, how will Baptist Homes be able to keep it viable?
A: Meyers said, the tax money we receive is approximately $350,000 per year. The budget is over $5 million. Your tax money only contributes about six cents out of every dollar of our operation. The majority of our money comes from private pay, insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Your tax money is almost a non-issue because of the amount of it.
Neubauer said, “I think the question still is, “How will Baptist Homes be able to keep it viable?”
A: Harrison addressed the question. “One of the things we have discovered is by having the corporate structure with people such as the corporate NBS nurses. We would hope we would be able to increase revenue, not in the sense of increasing the room rates.
“We have not done that at Vandalia. But rather to make sure we are getting reimbursed for the care that is provided. It takes specialization to really know how to do that at all levels,” Harrison continued. “Baptist Homes is blessed to receive significant money through the gifts and donations from the churches and other individuals.”
Q: Neubauer asked, what happens to the current staff and how are you able to retain staff and attract new staff?
A: Kampeter said, “When Baptist Homes took over our operation really nothing changed so to speak. Our day-to-day operations went just like we had always been doing. The huge difference was additional support from their staff, additional financial support from us. Everything we were doing before we are doing the same. There was no big itinerary coming in.”
Q: Neubauer asked, what about attracting staff? I know it has been difficult to keep staff and a lot of agency people have had to be brought in.
A: Kampeter responded, Baptist Homes was able to help us eliminate that. If not every facility in this room had to use agency staff, there would be a whole lot more facilities still open and running – like we have for the last 30 years. It’s just the fact of where the majority of people are. If you are not using them (agency staff), you are very blessed to do so.
Q: During the transition period, it sounds like Baptist Homes will be guiding current staff, the administrator, social worker, activity director. Will you guys, Baptist Homes, be in partnership with the current staff? asked Jean Evans, whose brother is a patient at Salt River, and her grandson is employed there.
A: Harrison said BHHM mission, vision and values all reference Christlike care.
“A lot of us would like to think Christlike is love, grace, mercy, goodness, absolutely, those are all Christlike attributes. So are accountability, that’s Christlike. So is trust. It is also helping people make decisions in pleasing God,” Harrison continued. “We would be implementing our onboarding of the employees where they go through the orientations.
“I think the biggest challenge that we have had is the staffing crisis. Part of what we are trying to do is create that culture during the management period. We would be working with those teams that are in place currently.”
Q: Evans asked, what if in this management period time, you find an employee that you don’t like or can’t ascribe to culture. What do you do then?
A: Harrison explained, “When the accountability side of Christlikeness comes in, we talk with them and work with them, and if they are not an appropriate fit with what is currently done, they cease to be an employee.
“Resident care always has to be at the top. I can assure you that resident care doesn’t happen when you have people using profanity, back biting, gossiping or taking extended breaks.”
Q: Tracy Smith said, I have a question from someone watching a live feed. If you purchase the facility for $1, do you have that option to come back and sell it back? Have you ever sold it back? If so, how many times and what is the likelihood that would happen?
A: Harrison said, it has not happened. “This home has been here for 50 years, and we want to keep the mission alive for another 50 years. Once we move into this, when we get to that six-month point and do our intent letter, at that point we are all in. That is our commitment, and we have not had one that has gone back.”
Q: Smith said, what I interpret from that and your work with ministerial guidance is that you will also be working very closely with all faiths, that they would have the same types of services they currently have at Salt River.
A: Harrison said, “We make available our ministerial leadership to come in and we will do that for free. Sermons obviously are not controversial, they are just going to come from God’s Word.
“Bottom line, we work with the churches and want to be a friend to the churches. We want to be in the community, for the community. We understand we have residents that don’t have any personal conviction of faith. That doesn’t change the fact that we show them the love of Christ.”
Q: Smith asked, will the nursing home district dissolve at some point?
A: Myers responded, I think once the purchase would be completed then yes, the nursing home district would dissolve.
Myers added, regarding another question you had, we have various services on Sunday from various churches that will continue. That will not change in any way whatsoever.
Q: Leroy Adams asked Myers, can you tell folks here that have been paying taxes for 50 plus years what the levy is at this point?
A: Our tax levy for the nursing home is 30 cents, Myers said.
Q: Adams asked, can you tell us what the valuation for Salt River is?
A: Myers said not off the top of my head.
Q: Leroy said the $5 million that it costs to keep this facility functioning. Can we have some kind of verification, print out or audit to show us where those tax dollars went?
A: Myers said I am assuming they would be available.
“Salt River for many long years has had two basic accounts. One is called the general fund, that is the money that we get from all sources other than taxes,” Myers explained.
“The tax money goes into a Tax #3 account. That money is used for upkeep on the building, insurance payments on the building, liability insurance. That has been used for I think as long as I have been on the board.
“There have been years we didn’t spend all of that and we were able to put some back. You may recall a few years ago, we built on an addition what we call a special needs unit. That was money that came from taxes. There was no money borrowed from that. It was all tax money.
“We also built on a community room. Again, with tax money. Yes, we can show you where the tax money went.”
Q: Leroy asked, have you considered increasing the tax levy?
A: Myers said the maximum we could ask for is 35 cents. That extra five cents would only bring in about an extra $50,000 dollars. So, you can see it will not go very far.
Q: Leroy asked, if this sold for one dollar, the present board we vote on would be dissolved?
A: Myers stated that is my understanding.
Q: Leroy asked Myers, do the patrons of this district get to vote on whether we sell the nursing home or don’t?
A: Myers said that is a question I have gotten more than once. We have consulted with an attorney on that aspect. It is my understanding that the board has the power to sell without a vote of the people.
Q: An individual asked, will there be an increase for the residents or will it basically be the same?
A: Mackey said it will be basically the same. We don’t set Medicaid and Medicare rates anyway. We will look at private pay rates and under this management agreement in particular, things will be the same.
Salt River Board Treasurer Kathy Lackey said, “I would like to say the Baptist Homes was not our last chance, it was our first choice. I think our board is enthusiastically united in this partnership that we are trying to set up. So, I hope the community will be rallying behind us and give us the support that we need to bring the Baptist Home.”
Salt River Administrator Tim Schrage addressed the crowd, “I just want to make one comment, to kind of drive home where I see that Salt River is. I have been through a facility closing before.
“When I interviewed and spoke with this board, I told them I would never go through that experience again. You don’t want to go through that experience. It is terrible for residents, it is terrible for staff and the community,” Schrage continued.
“Salt River the way it is, it is not sustainable. They (BHHM) are talking about a lot of wonderful things they can do. I want to make sure you left here today realizing that if it stays the way it is, it is not sustainable.
“I think there are a couple of very strong viable options, the board has been reviewing and discussing for the past several months but could not say anything until today. We have a sense for the degree of interest that Baptist Homes has. The board felt like this is a time to introduce the fact they are having the discussion,” Schrage continued.
“No matter which of the two options that we feel are potentially viable, both of them are going to need 120% support from the entire county.”
Q: An individual asked, what is the other option?
A: Schrage said, “We cross one bridge at time. The board felt like this is the best option. They are exploring that and then will look and see if there is another opportunity then deal with it then. I am not at liberty to discuss that.
“We are here today to look at this option and find out here very soon their degree of interest in Salt River.”
Q: Another individual asked, when will we know?
A: Mackey said, “We are meeting with our board tonight (Thursday, January 26) at 7 p.m., where we will report to them our discussion today and Rodney and the rest of our team will make our recommendation.”
Q: An individual asked, how will we be notified?
A: Mackey said Rodney will send word to Jerry as the Chairman of Board.
Myers added, “We will get word to you somehow.”
Q: Travis Knapp asked, will these other options be afforded to the community before these decisions are set in stone?
A: Schrage said, the Board of Directors are voted upon to handle the management of the nursing home district. The Statues empower the board wholly to evaluate and make decisions. Those decisions really do legally rest with the board.
Q: An individual asked, how much is the management fee?
A: Mackey said, during the first six months we will pay Salt River $1.00 a month.
The meeting wrapped up a little before 3 p.m.