Editor’s note: Dr. William Miller, chief of staff at the Adventist Health Mendocino Coast Hospital, is writing weekly reports concerning the COVID-19 situation on the Mendocino Coast. We are pleased to be running his health column, with details on the medical fight against the pandemic. The views shared in this weekly column are those of the author, Dr. William Miller, and do not necessarily represent those of The Mendocino Voice or of Adventist Health.
Sherwood Oaks is the local, privately owned nursing home in Ft. Bragg with 79 licensed beds and currently 39 residents. Like so many nursing homes throughout the US, it is facing significant challenges. It has been serving this community since the late 1970’s. The owner, Joe Reding, bought it about 35 years ago and has been managing it ever since. Even though Reding, a local of Ft. Bragg, owns the business and the nursing home license, he does not own the building or land upon which the facility sits. That is owned by Richard Acevedo of Auburn, California.
Reding has been looking to sell Sherwood Oaks for many years, but has not been able to find a buyer. In speaking with Reding, one immediately senses the pride and deep love for Sherwood Oaks that he holds and how much it hurts him to see the current predicament. “The insurance mix and all of the deferred maintenance on the building make it less attractive to a potential buyer,” Reding told me.
There are several structural problems with the building. The roof is past due for replacement. Recently an area of ground sank about 8 inches involving one end of the parking lot and extending to one of the building’s walls next to the kitchen. It turns out that this subsidence was due to an old, underground fuel oil tank that was taken out of service about 40 years ago. There are also improvements needed in the boiler that provides hot water and heats the building and needed replacement of the back-up electrical generator.
Like so many other long-term care facilities, Sherwood Oaks has had significant challenges in maintaining staff even before the COVID pandemic. Will Maloney, the administrator of Sherwood Oaks, told me that he simply can’t find the staff to hire and that the financial situation does not allow him to offer competitive salaries that might attract nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to move here. Currently, several of the staff are travelers which are very expensive and impacts the facility’s financial viability.
Dr. John Cottle, the medical director of Sherwood Oaks has praise for the hard work of the staff who have remained dedicated despite the facility’s struggles. “Our staff have done a remarkable job,” Cottle said. “It is amazing that we have been able to maintain the quality of care despite so many challenges. I owe it all to our staff,” he added.
As a physician who has admitted Sherwood Oaks residents to our hospital, I agree with Dr. Cottle that they continue to provide quality care, yet I am concerned about the future of the facility. Our community seriously needs a nursing home. After The Woods in Little River closed its resident program, leaving only planned senior housing, the only other options on the Coast are three assisted living homes and Sherwood Oaks.
I have learned that Acevedo, the property owner, is in negotiations to sell the building and land to nursing home magnate Shlomo Rechnitz. Rechnitz’s parent company, Brius Healthcare Services, directly or indirectly controls 81 nursing homes in California. According to the Brius web site, Rechnitz got into the healthcare industry in 1998 when he and his brother founded a medical supply company, TwinMed. A review of various articles about Rechnitz and Brius reveals that his nursing homes have faced some of the same challenges that are being faced across the industry. Many of these articles have also been critical of Rechnitz and how he has managed these nursing homes and delt with these challenges.
An ownership transition, like the one that may soon take place, is an opportunity for the new owner to show his commitment to the residents of the facility, its staff, and the larger community that it serves. One important way for Rechnitz to do this will be to infuse the needed capital to address the deferred maintenance issues. We should watch how he chooses to do this.
The California Department of Aging aids nursing home residents and their families by providing a mechanism for bringing forward concerns through its Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. Our local ombudsman can be reached by calling (707) 468-5132. More information about the ombudsman program can be found at https://aging.ca.gov/Programs_and_Services/Long-Term_Care_Ombudsman/.
You can access previous Miller Reports by visiting www.WMillerMD.com.
The views shared in this weekly column are those of the author, Dr. William Miller, and do not necessarily represent those of the publisher or of Adventist Health.