Senior Care Center Receives Medicare/Medicaid Approval from State

BRUNSWICK, Georgia: Dec. 9, 2008 – The Southeast Georgia Health System Senior Care Center has passed its inspection survey by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS)—the component of the government’s Department of Health and Human Services that oversees Medicare and Medicaid programs. Passing the inspection allows the Center to admit residents with Medicare and/or Medicaid, says Health System President and CEO Gary R. Colberg, FACHE.

CMS conducts unannounced onsite inspections that determine whether nursing homes meet the minimum Medicare and Medicaid quality and performance standards set forth by the U.S. Congress. The inspection teams observe resident care processes, the physical environment, and the interactions between team members and residents.

“CMS surveyors looked at every aspect of care, including our facilities, team, and record keeping. Our Senior Care Center passed the inspection with flying colors,” Colberg says. “This allows us to admit area residents in need of long-term care who have Medicare and/or Medicaid and provide them with compassionate, professional treatment.”

The Health System acquired the former Wildwood Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in March 2008. The Center, located at 2611 Wildwood Drive adjacent to the Health System’s Brunswick Campus, had fallen under disrepair under its former management and was closed by the state in September 2007. After purchasing the Center, the Health System completely renovated the facility.

For Elizabeth Stradtman of Brunswick whose brother J.C. Ramsey was a resident of the Center before it was closed, news of the Senior Care Center passing the inspection “is unbelievable, it’s like Christmas came early,” she says, adding that her brother, who had to be moved first to Savannah, then Midway, will be moving back in, hopefully this week. “When the Center closed, the situation felt like it must have felt to the people who went through Katrina. My brother called the Center home for 3 ½ years and felt displaced when it closed. I am so happy I will be able to see J.C. on a daily basis again—words can’t describe how I feel.”

When the Health System purchased the Center, renovations began in earnest. “We went in and renovated the Center entirely,” says Marjorie Mathieu, RPh, FACHE, vice president who oversaw the renovation. “To create a more home-like atmosphere, we established four residential neighborhoods within the Center: Live Oak, Turtle Cove, Ocean Breeze, and Harbor Side. The CMS inspectors were very impressed with the quality and look of the Center and felt that we exceeded their expectations for a worthy facility for our residents. We certainly went well beyond the minimal standards.

The renovations were completed in late August 2008 and the Senior Care Center opened its doors in September. However, in order to accept residents with Medicare and/or Medicaid, the Center had to first be opened for 30 days before going through the CMS survey, says Tom Cronemeyer, BSN, MBA, LNHA administrator of the Center.

“We opened our first neighborhood, Live Oak, in September and admitted 10 residents,” Cronemeyer says. “Now that we’ve completed the survey and are licensed for 200 beds, we can systematically work through our waiting list of prospective residents and begin admitting them over the next three to four months.”

According to Ellen Hamilton, RN, FACHE, vice president of Patient Care Services, the Center is a unique place for those in need of long-term care to call home. “The Senior Care Center is not like a hospital. These are not patients; they are residents and this Center is their home,” Hamilton says. Although making sure the actual physical structure is up to code and visually pleasing is important, making sure residents’ health care needs are met is the primary focus of the team members who work at the Center, Hamilton says.

“Our policies and vision are the same across the entire Health System,” she says. “Our nursing team at the Center went through orientation just like our team members. However, some aspects of their orientation were tailored specifically to the requirements of working at the Center and to meeting the needs of our residents within the guidelines put forth by the state.”

Cronemeyer says now that the Senior Care Center has met the CMS guidelines, more team members will be hired as more residents are admitted. “We are hiring incrementally as the number of our residents increases,” he says. “We are also closing our transitional care unit (TCU) in the hospital and will be treating those residents here at the Senior Care Center. Additionally, our team members from the TCU are transferring here, so we will have a seamless transition of care.”

Now that more residents can be admitted, Cronemeyer says the Health System can move forward with plans to expand activities for the residents and make the Center feel even more like home. “We will have 30 beds dedicated to Alzheimer’s patients, as well as rooms for transitional patients who need care on a temporary basis,” he says. “We already have two social workers, activities specialists, and we have commitments from a dance teacher and a pottery teacher. We also have large common living areas with flat screen TV’s, some with WII® gaming systems, an activity room, a spacious chapel, a beauty/barber shop, library and outdoor garden spaces. We are so excited to be able to build a culture, a neighborhood, a home for our residents.”

Colberg and Stradtman agree. “While the purchase of the facility allows us to expand our services, serving the needs of our community members who need long-term care was the most important reason in our decision to add the Senior Care Center to the Health System’s family of services,” Colberg says. “Passing this inspection now allows us to fulfill our goal of meeting the needs of residents who require this type of care. We can make sure their needs are met and reassure their loved ones that they are well-taken care of by a compassionate team of professionals who have their best interests at heart.”

“Words can’t describe his commitment to the project and Gary (Colberg) kept his word that the Health System would bring back as many of the residents as they could,” Stradtman says. “I am so indebted to Gary (Colberg) and the hospital. What the hospital and the new director are doing is awesome—you can tell they really care.”