The Hillsboro City Council used most of its hour-long July 16 meeting to listen to public input describing both successes and concerns.
Kris Erickson, chief executive officer for Salem Home, updated the council on recent achievements at the 45-bed longterm-care facility in Hillsboro.
Salem Home operates as a 501 (3)(c) nonprofit institution within a facility it leases from the city through the Public Building Commission and receives guidance from a city-appointed board of directors.
Erickson listed several facility-related improvements totaling more than $325,000 that have been completed during his three years at the helm, with more projects in the works.
He said Salem has been able to pay for those projects through efficient operations, and still maintain a modest profit.
“We aren’t out to make a billion dollars,” Erickson said. “I tell the staff if we make one dollar, I’m happy because that means we’ve reinvested all the funds we’ve received back into the building, back into our employees and back into the residents to make this the best place possible.”
Beyond facility improvements, Erickson highlighted continuing progress in the care provided by Salem based on a philosophy that prioritizes resident choice instead of institutional convenience.
“We don’t run a hospital model or a clinical model at all,” he said. “You choose when you wake up, you choose when you go to sleep, you choose when you get up for a meal. At any one given mealtime we have 26 menu alternatives you can choose from.”
Erickson said Salem is a state leader in a movement called “liberalized dining,” where residents can choose whatever they want to eat—even if it doesn’t reflect a doctor’s recommendation.
“We no longer force people to eat the warmed-up pureed diets they had in the past,” he said. “If someone wants a whole steak— even if they have swallowing or chewing problems—that’s their choice. They’re going to live the life they had outside the building before they come to us.”
Erickson said proof of Salem’s progress is reflected in receiving three “PEAK” awards from the state as well as receiving the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ highest five-star rating.
“There are a small handful (of five-star organizations) in the state—most are non-profits like ourselves,” he said. “We can equate ourselves with the Presbyterian Manors in the state, which are very well-funded facilities. But we’re stand-alone—we don’t have outside support like many of those do.”
Beyond quality resident care, Erickson outlined Salem’s economic benefit to the area:
• Beyond revenue from private-pay residents, Salem brings more than $1.5 million dollars into the community through Medicare and Medicaid;
• Of the 65 people who work at Salem, 52 live in Marion County and 36 in Hillsboro; annual wages exceed $1.5 million and Salem has more than $200,000 in benefits.
• Salem made direct payments of more than $200,000 to businesses in Hillsboro in 2011.
• Salem supports local organizations and charities, including a project that supplied school supplies for local children.
“As much as we receive we like to give back to the community,” he said.
Following his report, council members affirmed Erickson for the improvements Salem Home has made in recent years.
Councilor Bob Watson, a former board member when the longterm-care home and acute-care hospital operated as one entity, said Salem Home has benefitted “tremendously” from the decision in 2008 to legally separate the two operations when the hospital was sold to a private company.
“Previously, when they were together you had to have an administrator who was licensed to operate a hospital,” Watson said. “A lot of the (administrators) didn’t have any experience with nursing homes, and didn’t know quite what they were getting into. I think (having an administrator for the home) has been a huge plus.”
Added Erickson: “I’m not sure the hospital realized that the nursing home was their profit center at the time.”
Plea for fairness
During the time designated for public comments, resident Kevin Tidwell asked the council for fairness and consistency when the city considers potential violations of local “nuisance” ordinances.
Nuisance ordinances give municipalities authority to address acts of omission that create situations that obstruct, damage or inconvenience the rights of the community.
Tidwell said since shutting down his auto-repair shop earlier this year after being cited for nuisance violations there, his residence has been monitored almost daily by the city’s code enforcement officer while other violators around town have been ignored for years.
“There are other addresses with more debris, more trash, more vehicles—and they’ve never been an issue,” Tidwell said. “I don’t understand why my small amount of stuff comes ahead of all these other places.”
Tidwell said he has addresses and photos that support his assertions.
“Why don’t you give us a list of the addresses or the photos— whatever you prefer—and we will turn those in and see where we go from there,” Mayor Delores Dalke said.
“But we have had numerous complaints about your place,” she added. “That is one of the reasons why you have been sent to municipal court.”
Tidwell’s court date for debris-related citations was scheduled for July 22.
A citation for operating a commercial auto-repair business in a residential district—a code violation Tidwell denied at the council meeting—is still to be processed by the city, according to Paine.
“Unfortunately, you have people in your neighborhood who see what you do,” Paine told Tidwell. “They see cars coming and going, cars that are not tagged, not registered—those are issues that we do not allow inside a residential district.
“Once we’ve gotten that and the (debris) nuisances taken care of, you go off the radar screen.”