Earlier this year, the Western Horizons Care Center was in jeopardy of losing Medicare and Medicaid funding after an alarming amount of complaints and deficiencies triggered an investigation by the North Dakota Department of Health.
By Andy Roehl
A 147-page report citing 37 violations was complied by state survey inspectors and the Care Center was given until Dec. 7th to address the problems outlined therein. Now that the deadline has expired, many may be wondering where the nursing home stands.
Matthew Shahan, CEO of West River Health Services, recently provided an update regarding the status of the Western Horizons Care Center, confirming it to be in a state of good standing. “We are actively not under any survey process, we’ve been cleared.” Said Shahan, who additionally informed that the Care Center was cleared of their plan of correction back on Sept. 11th. Shahan further explained specific deficiencies that resulted in serious consequences and state involvement. “The director of nursing is a position that you have to have somebody fill in at all times. That was one of our more serious deficiencies. When somebody had stepped down, we were actively searching for a new DON, but we didn’t have anybody named or in place. The lack of a DON and a couple of hours in a one-month period when we did not have a registered nurse on staff were the most serious of deficiencies that led to the ban on admissions.”
In addressing the changes that had to be made, Shahan informed that new registered nurses have been hired in addition to a new director of nursing. The new Care Center DON has been actively hiring passionate individuals to meet the needs of the residents, while trying to lower the number of traveling nurses. “They [traveling nurses] fill a good need, but if we can, we would like to have local people taking care of our local residents.”
Before the issues came to light, Western Horizons Care Center was endowed with a 5-star survey. Shahan acknowledged the tarnished reputation. “It was a pretty quick and sudden change. Unfortunately, the star-rating system isn’t going to get any better.” Shahan also elaborated that even after applying necessary changes, the fines and issues will be assessed accordingly with the next survey which will keep the Care Center’s rating at a two-star level. Even if they were to pass the upcoming survey with flying colors, the rating would not change until at least 2019.
Regardless of rating or rumor, the Western Horizons Care Center is sincere in remaining focused on providing quality care for its residents and rebuilding trust between the community. “I’ve longed maintained that other newspapers and cities in the state can think what they want about us, but we are concerned about our community and those who are putting their trust in us to take care of their loved ones.” Said Shahan.
Shahan commented that for those who had never actually been inside the facility and read the report likely were misconstrued that it was a filthy place. Although the Care Center may have been unfairly judged on its shortcomings, Shahan did acknowledge that there were in-fact things that needed to be done better. “Our quality assurance program was lacking at that time. We’re monitoring these things now to make sure we don’t slip.” For anyone who is concerned and wants to get an idea of where everything stands is strongly encouraged to contact the Care Center, ask questions and set-up a tour.
Recently, the Care Center held an ice cream social event presenting an opportunity for the community to come in, see things for themselves, and celebrate the employees. West River Health Services and Western Horizons Care Center plan on holding more community events in the near future.
Regarding the new staff and new trainings recently implemented, Shahan praised the Care Center “We have really good people. You don’t work in long term care if your heart’s not in it. It’s a big responsibility for us, but it is very rewarding as well.”
Shahan expressed that having the convenience of a nursing home so close by is something West River Health Services does not take for granted. “It’s our mission to care for the folks of southwest North Dakota and we want to provide that care from birth to death.”