Nashville councilmembers are again debating if the city should stay in the nursing home business.
Next week, the Metro Council will consider two proposals — to slow down the process of closing the city’s last facility and to require the mayor to create a long-term plan.
The proposals come after some city officials couldn’t find a private operator to prevent the displacement of vulnerable residents at Metro’s Bordeaux nursing home last year.
“We were too deep into the process and residents had already started to be transferred,” Councilmember Kyontzè Toombs says. “So there was nothing really that the council could do.”
The closure displaced around 100 seniors during the pandemic, which raised health concerns and highlighted the lack of options for underserved communities.
“And to see them go through this transition, it was kind of sad,” says Alicia Halliburton, a certified nursing assistant who worked at the Bordeaux facility for 10 years. “Because a lot of them didn’t know where they were going, what they were going to do.” She says some seniors ended up in nursing homes across the region, which disconnected some from families who use the bus to visit.
Plus 200 employees lost their jobs. Halliburton says councilmembers need to take more notice of their facilities.
Learning from failures
Vice Mayor Jim Shulman says city officials are constantly learning the best process to ensure 40 councilmembers are kept in the loop.
“The best I can tell you is that if councilmembers are concerned about particular things like this,” he says. “If they will let the mayor’s office know in the office of contract procurement or purchasing know. Then I think those entities can do probably a better job of notifying the council members.”
In 2014, councilmembers decided the city needed to exit the nursing home business, because it didn’t have expertise and to preserve money.
Now Toombs is trying to protect the Knowles Assisted Living Facility. The building is walking distance from the Bordeaux facility, and she doesn’t want its residents and employees to suffer the same disruption. Knowles provides an affordable option for around 50 adults who need assistance but want some independence.
“We need to be looking out for our residents and what’s best for them,” she says. “And we need to consider all options, even if that is, you know, ultimately whether it’s privately operated.”
Since 2017, the private company AnthemCare has run daily operations at Knowles. In five months, the contract will expire. So Metro is getting ready to take bids from potential operators.
This year the city paid a $2.1 million subsidy to AnthemCare and was responsible for structural repairs and maintenance related to life and safety.
As the Budget and Finance chair, Toombs acknowledges it’s costly for the city but says there is value in the city exploring all options. She’s interested in preserving the buildings, grounds and the nursing home license since they are the city’s assets.
Correction: This story originally gave the wrong job title and name spelling for Alicia Halliburton. She was a former certified nursing assistant for the Bordeaux Long Term Care facility, not a registered nurse.