Fruita senior living center closing after 30 years | Business | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors
For about 30 years, The Oaks Assisted Living, 805 W. Ottley Ave. in Fruita, housed Medicaid patients.
On Aug. 1, the facility’s story will come to an end.
Family Health West, which owns The Oaks, decided to close it three weeks ago and made the announcement in a Tuesday news release.
Before becoming The Oaks, the facility was a man camp for oil workers in the 1980s. Adapting the building to its current use wasn’t easy and eventually become financially infeasible.
“About 95% of our patients rely on Medicaid, which means that we rely on government reimbursement for services. The cost of expenses have been increasing for years, but the rate of reimbursement hasn’t,” said Eric Mello, spokesperson for Family Health West. “We don’t know what future requirements will look like, such as increasing hallway or doorway sizes. Now, with construction costs rising, it’s just not financially sustainable to operate this.”
The organization is now working to get the 50 residents into new homes.
Family Health West will look for facilities that are sufficiently staffed and also serve Medicaid patients. That way, Mello said, residents will hopefully not have a major change to their out-of-pocket costs.
There was no set number of staff working at The Oaks because they tend to go back and forth between other Family Health West facilities.
Because of that, Mello said layoffs will be avoided as they search for similar placements for staff.
Staffing is another key factor in the closing. While Mello did not say that The Oaks was understaffed, he did mention that it wasn’t at it’s desired level. Part of that is because of finances. Entry level assistants would make just above minimum wage, Mello said, which shrunk applicant pools
“This place doesn’t make money, I don’t know if we’ve ever finished a year in the positive. And you don’t work here if you’re looking to make money, you work here for the mission,” Mello said. “With competitors having shiny new facilities and better pay, it’s been tough to meet what we’d like.”
DECISION WAS DIFFULT
Dr. Korrey Klein has served as the president and CEO of Family Health West for nearly two years, but he previously was a physician in the system starting in 2012. That gave him plenty of time to walk the halls of The Oaks and get to know the residents — whether he was their physician or not.
“It was just such a laid back culture. I would sometimes visit their rooms like home visits, or just stop people in the hallway and have great conversations with them.” Klein said. “Some residents were there for a long time while, for others, this was their first stable housing in years. I felt incredible sadness when I realized it was time.”
Klein said that the decision wasn’t made lightly, but that the layout and structure of the building has made it difficult to update.
From a bird’s eye view, The Oaks looks more like army barracks than an assisted living facility. It holds 70 rooms, which are separated in pods of about 10-15 rooms. Each pod has its own building and the hallways connecting those also have their own buildings. That often made for a feeling of isolation, Klein said.
That was exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Family Health West instituted strict visitation guidelines and no longer allowed residents to come and go as they pleased.
In November, Mesa County Public Health listed The Oaks on its outbreak list and reported 10 COVID-19 cases.
Klein said that the decisions weren’t popular with residents but necessary. He commended residents and staff for sticking through the tough times.
The Oaks is still open, and Mello said that it will stay that way until they find new homes for residents. It’s deadline to do so is Aug. 1.
The land that the facility sits on isn’t up for sale. Instead, once the building is torn down, Mello said that Family Health West will conduct a community needs assessment on future use. But there’s no hard time table on that process for a new building, especially with high construction costs.
“I do think that assisted living could return to that land,” Klein said.