Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2001

State bans admissions at infirmary

County hires trouble-shooter to solve nursing home’s problems

April 4, 2001

In the words of Leavenworth County Commissioner Bob Adams, the county infirmary hit bottom a month ago.

But he vows that the nursing home is on its way back up.

State officials have ordered a ban on new admissions at the infirmary in Leavenworth, which is owned and operated by the county.

The ban, which went into effect two weeks ago, cited problems at the infirmary, as well as with the infirmary's administration and the county commission.

In reaction to those problems, Leavenworth County commissioners hired a trouble-shooter to ensure the infirmary is properly caring for its 37 residents.

"It's just plainly said: We had the worst audit we've ever had, and it's time to either bring it up to standards or to close it," Adams said.

"We chose to bring it up the standards, and to make the final assessment down the road. We don't really look for closing. We look for a very dramatic comeback that's going to put us in compliance day in and day out a new life for the Leavenworth County Infirmary."

The state ordered the admissions ban because of concerns for residents' health, according to information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The KDHE report cited two problems that were detected during nine visits to the infirmary between Feb. 19 and March 5: verbal abuse of a patient and pressure sores on residents' skin.

In addition, KDHE cited the nursing home administrator and the Leavenworth County Commission for not better ensuring the infirmary adheres to standards.

K.J. Langlais began work as infirmary administrator on March 20 the day before the ban took effect. Now, she said, the home is operating under a new set of ground rules.

"I have found the staff to be very cooperative and very willing and ready to make changes and do what's right," she said.

The former administrator, Richard Moppin, now is the county's sanitarian.

Langlais is working under a three-month contract that is renewable for three additional months. Langlais is earning $1,600 a week, but paid no benefits, according to Gail Stringer of the county's human resources department. For 12 weeks, Langlais' salary would be $19,200.

"The commissioners called me because they needed somebody to help them," Langlais said.

Langlais said she is implementing a new organizational structure that will improve problem-solving, training, education and communication among the staff.

"You have to be constantly looking for things that may not work or are not working and change those," she said.

Langlais' 19 years of experience in long-term care includes two years as administrator of the Tonganoxie Nursing Center in the late 1980s. In the last five years, she has worked as a troubleshooter, helping nursing homes in peril. The Leavenworth County Infirmary, she said, fits that profile.

"Obviously, it had a survey that showed it definitely had some problems," she said. "I think they're all solvable, very much so."

She said she anticipates the ban on admissions to be lifted soon, and KDHE officials visited the home on March 26.

"The surveyors were very pleased and positive when they came back in," she said.

Concerning specific problems outlined by KDHE, Langlais said:

Many of the residents' pressure sores have healed. "None of them was severe," she said. "Certainly, we have taken them very seriously and have made some headway in correcting those."

A nurses aides' verbal abuse of a resident has been addressed through "appropriate action."

Obviously, concerns about the administration and county commission are being taken seriously. "There's been a change of both administrator and director of nursing during the past couple of weeks," she said.

Adams said he and his two fellow commissioners believe the infirmary has a bright future. But changes are necessary for that to occur, he said.

"According to the audit, management was the biggest problem," he said. "We have started out from scratch with the director, the director of nursing and any other staff necessary to put us in compliance. We'll be replacing programs that will put us in compliance."

Langlais' role, according to Adams, is to fix problems and ensure the staff can operate within state and federal guidelines.

"We're looking for a signal from her, to say, 'I think my mission is accomplished,'" Adams said. "It may take longer than three months."

The infirmary, long beset by financial difficulties, should be an attractive place for county residents, the commissioner said. Adams' mother is a resident at the infirmary.

"It's a shame that we had to hit bottom before we could make things happen," he said. "In essence, we did. But we're fixing it, and we're going to have it fixed and good to go. We'll be taking in new patients before you know it. I can't imagine when nursing homes won't be a necessity of life. It's very much a need, and we're going to be there."

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