While many people across the state are still reeling from flooding in March, the past three months have proved to be particularly taxing on the residents, staff, and owners of the Birchwood Manor senior living facility in North Bend.
After residents were evacuated shortly after the flood, and months of attempts to regain licensing through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and re-certification from Medicare and Medicaid, ownership is now in the process of selling the still-shuttered senior and long-term skilled nursing facility.
“The best opportunity for Birchwood Manor at this point, because I cannot continue, is to step aside in operations and hope that a buyer will engage,” Pamela Quinn, owner of Celebrate Life, Inc., the parent company of Birchwood Manor, said.
Quinn said that she is currently in conversations will potential buyers, but couldn’t disclose further information on the status of a possible sale at this time.
The trouble for Birchwood Manor started on March 15 as floodwaters rose into North Bend, leading to the evacuation of 33 of the facility’s residents to the auditorium in Snyder and another 13 to a separate nursing facility in Dodge.
On March 17, the 33 residents who had been evacuated to Snyder were brought back to their homes at Birchwood Manor, which was untouched by flood water.
“At the time we returned there was no water and sewer in the community, but we have an emergency water and sewer plan that we are required to have by federal regulations,” Quinn said.
Just a day later, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services informed Quinn that it could voluntarily evacuate, or it could be involuntarily evacuated.
The DHHS also served Quinn with documents revoking Birchwood’s license, which stated that the facility was not able to meet waste, sanitation, hydration and bathing needs of residents because of the town’s compromised water and sewer systems.
After having its license revoked, which Quinn says was unnecessary and unprecedented, she began a fight to try to regain the license and allow Birchwood’s residents to re-enter the facility.
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Following a hearing with DHHS on April 23, Birchwood eventually would regain its license on a suspended status in May.
“We called all of our families and our residents and were set up to admit them, and then we were told that we couldn’t because we were not considered a current provider with Medicare and Medicaid,” Quinn said.
That notification proved to be the too much for Quinn and her company Celebrate Life, Inc. to overcome as she was informed the reapplication process for Medicare and Medicaid certification would take at least 60 days.
“We tried to be patient and did have some hope that they were going to look at it earlier than that, but in the end they did not,” Quinn said. “We just reached that point.”
Quinn says her company was financially unable to sustain for another 60 days, after suffering losses of approximately $6,000 per day since being evacuated in March.
“My bank has been an incredible financial partner in this because really since March we haven’t really been in a position to support this effort to re-open,” She said. “Their partnership allowed us to continue this on, but we are beyond now.”
One silver lining, according to Quinn, is that the effort to get Birchwood’s operating license reinstated through DHHS is the one thing allowing her to even seek out buyers to re-open the facility.
“Without the license, we would never even be able to consider a sale,” she said.
Quinn says she is disappointed in the DHHS’s handling of the situation, but more disappointed for the residents and more than 60 staff members who lived and worked at Birchwood.
“For 17 years, we have provided a really unique service,” she said. “We have residents from all over the state that other people won’t take, and now those people that we serve are going to be in hospitals longer, they are going to be farther away from family, and it’s just a really unfortunate situation.”