Change has been a constant at Pleasant Valley Infirmary at least since the Board of Supervisors announced plans to sell the Washington County-owned nursing home.
The state has lifted its restrictions on the home accepting new Medicare and Medicaid, imposed following a series of violations found during Department of Health inspections.
And Tamme Taran, a school nurse in the Granville school system and a member of the Hampton Board of Supervisors, has been named to succeed Sue Thomas, who was let go last week as director of nursing for the 122-bed Argyle nursing home.
The appointment was made by administrator Jim DeLuca, who is stepping down in two weeks.
County Attorney Roger Wickes said his understanding is that Taran is in the position temporarily.
“As far as we are concerned, she’s there until we get someone else into it,” he said. “Our plan is to get another person in there.”
Thomas, an out-of-town consultant was brought in three months ago and was receiving $75 per hour, plus housing costs. Hampton Supervisor David O’Brien took issue with reports that had characterized her leaving as a firing; instead he said as her contract was about to end on Aug. 10 and as it would not be renewed, it made sense to let her go early and bring in Taran in the interim.
Taran, who has more than 20 years experience in management in public and private nursing facilities, has been at PVI part-time for several months.
She is expected back on her job at the Granville school district on Sept. 4, which puts some pressure on the supervisors to find a replacement quickly.
Taran did not return calls seeking comment.
Granville Supervisor Matt Hicks, who is on the newly-formed committee to find a new administrator, said the facility has been using staff from nursing agencies to fill staffing holes and could, if needed, for the director of nursing as well.
He said the board is using its contacts with the health care community in the region to try finding good applicants quickly.
Making a list
The state lifted its restrictions on Medicaid and Medicare patients after PVI passed a series of inspections, according to Wickes.
“It was a lot of hard work,” by the staff, Wickes said. Once the state finds a problem, as it did at the county-owned facility, it requires a plan of corrections for the problem, and inspects to ensure that the plan is followed and the problem solved. Because of the severity of some of the problems, the state also placed PVI on its special focus list, which also means more inspections. Some of the subsequent inspections found further problems, which meant more plans of corrections and even more inspections. As a result, said Wickes, it took a long time for the state to give the facility its seal of approval again.
Now that the last plan has been checked off, Wickes said, “Hopefully we can continue the good work.”
Meanwhile, the uncertainty surrounding the nursing home, part of the county’s health services it has been trying to sell, has had an effect.
Wickes said the facility is about a wing’s worth of patients short of capacity. O’Brien said the home typically has between 75 and 80 percent Medicare and Medicaid patients. In addition to the ban on accepting those patients, O’Brien said negative publicity around the facility has hurt.
Staffing has also been a problem, with the board recently approving performance and hiring bonuses, including bonuses for correctly administering medicine; providing the wrong medicine among the more serious charges that have held up a return to admitting Medicare and Medicaid patients.
O’Brien defended the bonuses, saying they were a way to “adjust salaries” quickly, something that is difficult in a bureaucratic system, and he wanted to thank staff for their hard work.
The county board is also continuing its negotiations with Centers for Specialty Care, a New York City-based company that has bid to buy the nursing home. Wickes said he did not expect anything definite on the sale until the end of the summer.
O’Brien said there is a “misconception” that a new owner would want to “wipe the staff out and start again.”
He said he did not think the sale hanging over the facility would make it harder to find a permanent replacement for Taran, although it is accurate to say leadership positions “get the most serious scrutiny” during an acquisition.
“If you have a good person, there is no reason to change them,” he said. “There are too many advantages to stability.”
Hicks echoed that sentiment. Even if a sale goes through quickly, finalizing the deal would take a year or so, and that would give the new administrators a chance to show their worth. He notes that there is high demand and “not a huge” talent pool for nursing administrators nationwide, especially in rural areas, and that will be true for the new owners next year as well as the supervisors now.