By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Mixed stories relay care center issues

Long-term care centers are in the news, but we should resist over-mingling the stories.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

One story involves a controversial 2018 McMinnville city ordinance that licenses care centers and fines them for unnecessary use of emergency services. Today’s Viewpoints cover features pro/con commentaries regarding the new law.

It’s unfair simply to wrap this local dispute into broader-based stories about challenges in the long-term care industry. At all levels, the industry is overwhelmed by elderly population growth and wounded by a few bad operators.

One person well-positioned to assess that system is Fee Stubblefield of Amity: Founder and CEO of The Springs Living — a group of 17 residential and long-term care facilities in Oregon and Montana – and president of the 1,000-plus-member Oregon Health Care Association (OHCA).

The Springs employs 50 people in McMinnville-based corporate offices and about 1,400 more in its highly regarded care center network. Stubblefield’s pride in his company extends to an Oregon industry that has responded to its many challenges; his frustration over McMinnville’s new law is evident.

A 2017 AARP scorecard on long-term care ranked Oregon No. 4 overall among states, with a No. 1 rank for support of family caregivers offset by a No. 27 position for quality of life and quality of care.

For 15 years, Oregon regulators failed to follow federal guidelines for investigating abuse in elder-care facilities, and one local facility reached a “nation’s worst” rap sheet. However, in 2017 OHCA joined with the Alzheimer’s Association of Oregon to advance sweeping statutory changes in quality of dementia care in Oregon.

The Oregon law enacted new licensing, regulations, fees and performance requirements, with greater self-reporting and more enforcement of violations. As the industry incorporates those changes, Stubblefield contends McMinnville’s new licensing and penalties are an unnecessary regulatory overlay that may be in conflict with state regulations.

Meanwhile, local care centers have paid $89,000 to date in licensing fees, with about $64,000 outstanding; emergency calls from care centers are down 22 percent; and the city has not issued any fines for non-emergency EMS calls. It appears the city achieved the desired results from the EMS fines, but a ballot measure effort still seeks to overturn the city law.

Today, Stubblefield and city Councilor Kellie Menke provide their opposing arguments on McMinnville’s care center law. Rather than take sides, I’ll just encourage a critical read of those comments, along with a reminder that there are many stories, many issues and many sides to current concerns about long-term care in America.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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