City threatens to cut off nursing home’s water

By Mike Linn

The city of Portales may soon cut off the water to a nursing home unless an overdue bill totaling more than $10,000 is paid.
Portales City Attorney Stephen Doerr sent a letter dated June 5 to Heartland Continuing Care Center explaining that the water debt is $10,760.87. The letter said if the obligation isn’t paid or a payment plan established by 5 p.m. on Monday, then the city will shut off the water.
“These requests and demands for payment have been continuously ignored,” Doerr wrote in the letter.
Heartland office manager Cindy Westerman said she cut a check to the city earlier this week, and that she would never allow the nursing home to go without water, even if she had to take out a loan.
She declined to discuss the amount of the check she wrote. City officials said they had not received it as of Wednesday.
Westerman said money to pay the water bill has not been available because the home had not received some funds from the state for Medicaid. She said the process of receiving those funds at times can be long and drawn out.
“Many (residents) will move in here and we won’t get any money for them until they get approved for Medicaid, and sometimes that is a long time,” Westerman said. “We would never let the water be cut off. … In some cases it’s six or eight months before these people get approved for Medicaid.”
Westerman said she wanted to be clear that the nursing home is “not being sold, we’re not closing, we’re not going bankrupt.”
Linda Ghaffari, administrator for Buena Vista Nursing and Retirement Center in Clovis, agreed that receiving Medicaid funds from the state can take a while — mostly because the process of applying and getting approved is lengthy.
“It’s not a short process, let’s put it that way,” Ghaffari said.
The Portales city attorney has sent several letters seeking payment from Heartland, but according to city clerk Joan Martinez-Terry, Heartland nursing home personnel haven’t responded to those letters, either with payment or reasons for non-payment.
“Maybe if there are things we don’t understand, if they’ll tell us, we will surely back off,” Martinez-Terry said. “Mainly what we want is communication of some sort. The last thing we want to do is shut the water off at a nursing home.”
As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday the last payment the city received from Heartland was in April, that being delinquent, the city clerk said.
Typically residents have their water turned off by the city after the second month of non-payment. For businesses, however, the city offers a little leeway to catch up to funds that may be arriving late, much like the Medicaid allocations the state sends to Heartland, Martinez-Terry said.