City looking out for care center residents


When your loved one must go to a care facility because dementia or a medical condition requires significantly more care than you can safely provide at home, there are many decisions to be made, not the least of these are the financial decisions.

Guest Writer

Kellie Menke has served as McMinnville City Council president since January 2017. In the mayor’s absence, she presides over council deliberations, preserves order and enforces council rules, while retaining her right to vote as a councilor. She was elected from Ward 2 in September 2004. A licensed CPA, she maintained a public accounting practice until her retirement in January 2014.

Long-term care in a facility can run from $4,000 a month to more than $10,000. That translates to $48,000 to upward of $120,000 a year.

Given that level of financial commitment, you’d think there would be no need to worry about whether the facilities you are considering meet the requirements of due care.

But think again. Frankly, it’s something you should closely examine before making a decision. 

Check out the Oregon Department of Human Services’ Aging and People with Disabilities web page. In McMinnville alone, a search will turn up 400 substantiated licensing and abuse violations in local care facilities from 2010 to the beginning of 2019.

There are 17 different facilities in McMinnville providing assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing services, and they are collectively responsible for these violations. That’s why the new specialty license for care facilities was created.

Updated research documents gaps in the regulatory oversight of care facilities. The Oregon Healthcare Association responses from local care facility residents and local firefighters have driven the need for intervention to ensure the safety of our most helpless seniors.

Some examples of these failures in care can be seen in these code violations identified by the fire department: 

On Dec. 26, 2017, fire broke out in a commercial care center laundry room. It was held to the room of origin, but chocking open a self-closing device on a fire-rated door allowed smoke and heat to escape into the egress hall, endangering the center’s entire population. The fire department logged four code violations requiring additional training for the center staff.

On Dec. 31, 2018, fire again broke out in the same laundry room. It was once again confined to the room of origin, but chocking open a self-closing device on a fire-rated door allowed smoke and heat to escape into the egress hall, endangering the entire population.

On June 20, 2018, a local center underwent a change in occupancy from I-2 Institutional to R-2 Residential. In the process, it created a dozen residential apartments inside spaces that had no smoke alarm provision, residents at risk. The fire department registered two code violations, preventing issuance of the  permit for the change.

These are just a few examples of code violations, poor disaster planning, lack of fire evacuation response and other issues, in violation of care standards and resident rights. 

State and federal resources for care center oversight are limited, and the office of the state’s long-term care ombudsman lacks the authority for inspection and investigation. So the city council enacted Ordinance 5059 to help fill the gap.

Most local facilities are staffed by an insufficient number of employees at insufficient pay levels. They are owned by large corporations that may have no particular affinity for either local staff or resident population.

That situation results in high turnover up the ranks, all the way from caregivers to facility managers. Rounds of turnover can occur two to three times in a year.

Some consistency is desperately needed in safety training for all staff, and that’s a costly proposition for the fire department. The city’s new specialty licensing program for local care facilities is designed to address the issue.

The fee runs $200 a year, or $16.67 a month, per bed. It’s a small price to pay to know all staff will be getting safety training once a year — training not provided by the facilities.

Under the program, residents will also receive information regarding their rights. It’s the right thing to do for our seniors, who have given us so much.      

Finally, enacting Ordinance 5059 provides the city council with the expectation of reducing the current burden of 500 unnecessary calls a year from local care centers by subjecting violators to monetary sanctions. The resulting financial saving with help the city’s fire department better provide timely emergency care for all city residents.




Your comments show exactly why 5059 must be put on the ballot and debated in publicly. On the surface, who could argue with the couple of stories the city uses scare people in order to print money? Money that will take away from the resources that could be used to hire staff or install smoke alarms. Yet, there is another very rational side to the issue and those facts must come out. Rational people support the fines on operators who don’t do a good job, we just don’t believe taking money from those doing it right and putting it in the city budget is the solution.


What do you expect for minimum wage and horrible working conditions?