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Nursing home

Published January 05. 2010 05:00PM

Weatherwood is a nursing and rehabilitation center owned by Carbon County, but the county commissioners are considering putting it up for sale. Hopefully, the commissioners will unload the facility very quickly.

It's a facility that the county government and the taxpayers cannot afford to keep operating.

The county opened Weatherwood in 1972. The facility is an off-shoot of what was originally called "Laurytown," which was opened in 1843 as a facility for the indigent. Local residents used to call Laurytown the "poor house."

Things have changed tremendously for nursing homes, not only from when it was Laurytown, but even since the present facility was constructed. The fact that the facility is operating in the red isn't the fault of either the commissioners or the management of the home. It's a sign of the present healthcare crisis that exists in America especially for the elderly. The federal government just refuses to provide adequate reimbursement for their care and it doesn't look like this situation will change anytime soon.

The commissioners have stated that Weatherwood is currently operating with an anticipated $3 million deficit. There's nothing to indicate this deficit won't rise. It's not likely the situations leading to the deficit won't correct themselves.

Carbon County Commissioner Charles Getz was a long-time opponent of putting Weatherwood up for sale. Even he has changed his mind.

Getz said at last week's commissioners' meeting regarding Weatherwood, ""We're not going to come even close to breaking even. It's not going to happen. I'm in favor of selling, as much as I hate to see that done because it's a well run facility."

We're not disputing Getz's assessment that the facility is well-run, but in Medicare's comparison of nursing homes, the federal agency doesn't give Weatherwood very high marks.

The present rankings by Medicare of Weatherwood are:

• Overall rating - Two stars out of five.

• Health inspections - One star out of a possible five.

• Nursing home staffing - Four stars out of five.

• Quality measures - Two stars out of five.

In all fairness, none of the nursing homes in Carbon County seem to garner the respect of the Medicare rankings personnel. In overall ratings, none of the local facilities rate more than two stars.

The bottom line, though, is finances. A $3 million deficit is something that commands attention.

There's no analysis presented as to the factors which created the deficit, but it doesn't matter. When a company has an entity which is faring so poorly financially, it won't remain in business very long by remaining status quo.

The faster Weatherwood is sold, the better it will be for the welfare of the county.

There's just no way the local taxpayers can keep subsidizing a facility with such great financial losses.

By Ron Gower

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