Administrator sees problems ahead

By David Arkin: PNT Correspondent

The administrator of a Clovis senior care center says a decision to relicense the facility by the state’s health department will create serious staffing and housing-cost issues.
Mary Weigl, who oversees the Senior Citizen Resident Center, said the health department will no longer license the center as an independent living facility with limited assistance. Instead, it will be licensed as a residential shelter care facility.
The change means the center must now have care plans in place and make sure residents are fed and dressed.
“The new designation implies that we have a high level of care for the residents,” Weigl said.
As of the beginning of this month, the center, which has 35 residents and has been in Clovis since 1990, started offering services under its new designation, Weigl said.
The previous designation left residents responsible for their own well-being.
Erinn Burch, who was recently nominated to the center’s board of directors, said before the center changed its license, the center was catering to residents who could do most things on their own.
“The individuals wanted the opportunity to choose from the services available,” she said.    
The change in designation came about because the center monitors administration of medicine. The state ruled that in order to continue to do that, and be recognized by the state, the designation would need to change.
“The state sees us giving medicine to residents as too much assistance,” Weigl said. “They say since we offer meds we’re not offering little assistance.”
Weigl said she’s “absolutely” not willing to stop providing medicine to her residents.
“My father was 72 and decided it was inconvenient to take three pills a day,” she said. “So he took them all at 5:30 in the morning. Old people who are taking pills need to be monitored.”
To run the center as a residential shelter care facility, Weigl said staffing and rent will have to be doubled.
“We are going to be jumping through hoops,” she said. “We will have to do 10 times more work and a lot of it is paperwork in order not to be written up when it comes time to be inspected.”
Steve Dossey, deputy director of the Division of Health Improvements for the state, said the center has been allowed for many years to operate as an independent living facility because it took part in a pilot program years ago.
Soon after starting up in Clovis, the center participated in a program in which the center’s officials came up with rules and regulations for independent living facilities. They presented the information to the state as part of the program, Weigl said.
“The state told us if we did the program and maintained it for a year and didn’t take in other people they would allow us to be an independent living facility with limited assistance,” Weigl said.
But Dossey said a deal between the state and the center should never have been approved.
“Someone at that time should have said that they needed to have the right license,” he said. “Not having the correct license is inconsistent with what we do.”
Weigl said she never expected the center to lose its designation.
“I’ve had a fight every four or five years with different state officials,” she said. “But once I got them to understand the situation they were OK with us keeping our license.”
Dossey said the center could operate without a license, but wouldn’t be recognized by the state.
“It bestows credibility for centers to be recognized by the state,” he said.
To be able to give medication to patients, Weigl said the center has to be licensed with the State Board of Pharmacy. To be licensed with that board, a center has to be recognized by the state, Weigl said.
In a letter that Weigl sent to the center’s board members, residents and their families, she said the center has to be licensed to protect itself.
“If we are not licensed, then the State Board of Pharmacy will not license us either, also insurance premiums will go up even further,” Weigl wrote.
“Our pharmacy consultant puts her license on the line. If we are not licensed she probably is not going to be willing to work for us.”
Burch said the center will have to go about things differently now.
“They’re going to have to go after a whole new clientele,” she said.
Despite the hardships that Weigl said her center will face, she said it’s important to find a way to maintain services.
“Because we care about the elderly we have to have a license,” she said. “We will step up the level of our care to meet the regulations.”