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Legislature Improves Nursing Home Care

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 12, 2007
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      Legislature Improves Nursing Home Care by Emma Krasov
      By : Emma Krasov : 4/12/07

      Russian Orthodox icons were shining with gold
      leaf in a small chapel, while nursing home
      residents listened to a CD of biblical stories, read in Russian.

      It was happening last Thursday, in one of those
      hidden places in Castro Valley, very few local residents are aware of.

      St. John Kronstadt Care Center, a 49-bed nursing
      home, founded by the Church of All Russian Saints
      in Burlingame, has a fair percentage of
      Russian-speaking residents, and a fair number of
      activities and improvements to be proud of.

      “ There’s been a tremendous amount of change
      since the Assembly Bill AB 1629 passed,” said
      Aaron Scott, the facility’s Administrator. “We
      were able to increase wages, provide health
      insurance for employees, buy electronic
      equipment, repair roof, and improve the quality of food.”

      On a menu, displayed in big letters by the
      kitchen, Russian borsh and cabbage rolls were
      listed as a standing feature among other ethnic staples.

      The Medi-Cal Long Term Care Reimbursement Act (AB
      1629), which the state legislature passed
      overwhelmingly in 2004, took effect at the end of
      2005, and essentially brought long-anticipated
      improvements in care for the state’s 110,000 most vulnerable residents.

      Currently, due to the increased funding and
      quality care incentives built into AB 1629,
      nursing homes all over California are investing
      in improvements such as better staffing, higher
      wages, and upgraded facilities and programs.

      “I’m working on this issue statewide,” said
      Isobel White, who represents California United
      for Nursing Home Care, “and I have to tell you
      that St. John is one of the best facilities we’ve
      found in terms of making tremendous leaps to make
      life better for its residents. They’ve reduced
      staff turnover, improved morale, and completed
      major facility upgrades to create a much more comfortable environment.”

      The bill increased Medi-Cal nursing home funding
      by basing reimbursement on a facility’s actual
      cost of providing care. For decades, the Medi-Cal
      reimbursement system has been underfunded.
      Nursing homes received a flat Medi-Cal
      reimbursement rate that did not cover the actual
      cost of care. California was one of the few
      remaining states with a flat-rate structure—and it wasn’t working.

      A coalition of senior advocacy organizations
      including the Congress of California Seniors,
      Gray Panthers, Older Women’s League and
      California Alliance for Retired Americans, along
      with nursing home operators, residents, their
      family members, worked together to create a
      system that would improve funding and hold
      nursing homes accountable for quality care.

      As a local example, a Castro Valley nursing home
      that had struggled with a high staff turnover
      rate, roof leaks, and outdated equipment has
      become a modernized, attractive residence with
      electric beds and lifts, a new roof and
      temperature control, dietary improvements and a
      significant reduction in staff injuries and patient falls.

      The home was also able to raise wages and improve
      benefits, resulting in improved staff retention rates.

      “We reduced staff turnover from 60% to 25%,”
      boasted Scott. “We were able to become competitive.”

      With his closest associates, like Dana Peevy,
      Director of Nursing, Rimma Kuznetsov, Business
      Office Manager, Sharon McCoshum, Director of
      Staff Development, and others, the Administrator
      has ambitious plans to improve the home’s yard
      with walkways and a fountain, and to keep the facility growing.

      If the name of the home is any indication, a
      Russian priest John Sergieff (1829-1908) gained
      his sainthood by providing help to the Kronstadt
      population, suffering from poverty, misery, disease and starvation.

      Castro Valley’s John Kronstadt nursing home
      offers a number of therapeutic and restorative
      programs, creative outlets, and social activities
      in addition to licensed nursing care.

      For more information, call 889-7000.

      Photos by Emma Krasov.
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