DHS Cuts Could Close Hundreds Of Nursing Homes

Friday, April 22nd 2016, 5:42 pm
By: Grant Hermes

At Ranchwood Nursing Home in Yukon, residents like Lou Collier are nervous.

“This is home for the rest of my life. It would be awful to have to leave Ranchwood for any reason,” Lou Collier, 90, said, her hair, had been done recently for an interview with a television station she added.

Collier has been living at Ranchwood for four years and said the staff and nurses that take care of her saved her life.

But those like Collier may have to leave after the Department of Human Services (DHS) announced it would be cutting 25 percent to Medicaid providers across the state; something that would remove a major source of funding and could cut the number of nursing homes in the state from over 200 to as low as 20, according to the nursing home’s Corporate Nursing Supervisor, Tamara Meadows.

Leona Miller, 78, has lived in Ranchwood for just over a year and she originally didn’t want to leave her apartment and a life of independence. But after a series of painful and frightening falls she was convinced by her daughter to move into a nursing home, which she now considers her new home. She said if it were to close she’d be forced to live on the streets.

“I didn't have anywhere else to go when I came here,” she said tearfully. “I don't have anywhere to go if I leave here except under a bridge.”

So far this year, DHS has cut more than $43 million, less than a third of the overall budget shortfall of $150 million announced by Director Ed Lake. Lake added he would also be considering fee increases for oversight, licensing and enforcement programs.

Employees were told contracts with vendors will also be reduced or cut entirely. Lake added there is planning underway at DHS for layoffs as well.

“It's horrifying. It is. It really is scary,” Meadows said.

Meadows oversees several nursing homes in the state and has been working in the business for 30 years. She said the industry has seen crisis before but none so drastic as the one this fiscal year.

“It makes me frustrated with the politicians that they do this. Just get the answers and do it. All this grandstanding makes me crazy,” she said.

Recently Gov. Mary Fallin released a budget proposal which included $500 million in bonds to pay for road projects and other critical agencies. The Governor told legislators there would be no further cuts to education, corrections or mental health, but made no mention of elderly care.

Many who work in the day to day operations of nursing homes feel their plights are often an afterthought for politicians and voters as whole. Meadows agreed and said the reasoning is most don’t think about long term or end of life care until they or someone they love needs it.

“People need to understand that some of us need help regardless and there's not going to be any help under the bridge,” Miller said.