Evaluations underway reviewing Imperial’s senior care facilities
By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Lyle Hight put it simply.
The top goals as part of the new management team at Imperial’s senior care facilities are to get the operation running more smoothly with its focus on residents.
Hight came on board as interim manager March 17 at the Imperial Manor Nursing Home, Parkview Assisted Living and Imperial Heights Retirement Center.
As a matter of fact, he and Sharon Colling, Lantern Health Services owner, were on site at 7 a.m. last Tuesday morning.
That was just 12 hours after the city council terminated its contract with Cambridge-based Rural Health Development (RHD), which had managed the facilities since 2006. In another motion, Lantern was hired on a one-year contract.
The termination was recommended by the senior services board, appointed in January.
“It takes a great staff and leader to do that,” Hight said, to maintain a smooth operation and a staff that puts residents first.
“Nursing homes are labor-intensive. It takes diligence on the part of the administration and department heads,” she said.
When there is turnover in those leadership areas, “the care can become more challenging,” she said.
Imperial’s senior care facilities have experienced a big turnover in administration with six different administrators hired since 2010.
Under the RHD contract, the administrators were RHD employees.
That’s going to change under Lantern Health Services. Once hired, the administrator will be a city employee again, as they were prior to RHD’s management. Ads are currently running for the position.
Doug Gaswick, senior services board chairman, said it was important to the board for the administrator to return as a manor/city employee.
“We want somebody who will be part of the community and live here,” he said.
“That’s also important for the marketing and promotion of our services,” he added.
Gaswick also likes the fact Lantern’s philosophy isn’t one of being here forever.
Hight agreed, saying Lantern’s intent is to “back out” eventually.
“Lantern is an organization that works to promote the facilities from within and bring in administration to manage the buildings,” Hight said.
Gaswick said the board fully intends to keep Lantern beyond the one-year contract for minimal consulting work.
“Nursing homes are one of the most regulated businesses out there,” he said, so it will be good to have a consultant to work with in some areas.
Since coming on board last week, Colling said the staff has been very open and friendly. She also gave high marks to the buildings.
“Your facilities are in great repair and have been well-maintained. That’s not the case everywhere,” she said.
Colling said they are now in the process of evaluating the operations at the three facilities. Her firm is working with several consultants who’ll be at the Imperial facilities to help evaluate. Nine consultants will be on site here the first two weeks, she said.
One of the first duties before looking at any employee performances is to make sure each department has its regulations “in the building,” Colling said.
Then, the policies and procedures used to meet those regulations will be reviewed.
“We are also looking at whether they have the equipment and training to do their jobs,” she added.
Each of those consultants has a specific focus area they will review, she said, then submit a report to her. All of the individual reports will be compiled into one to be given to the senior services board.
“The board will determine the future,” she said.
“We came in with no preconceived ideas on staff or patterns,” she said.
“We had a blank slate and are learning every day.”
Hight said they are learning about the good things the staff is doing “as well as those areas that need tweaking.”
“A lot of things are done right here. We just need to figure out how to make it run smoother,” Hight added.
Both Colling and Hight come to Imperial with a lot of senior care experience.
Colling has owned Lantern Health Services, based in Waverly, since 2012, but she’s been involved in nursing home care since 1990.
Trained as a social worker, she had her first experience in senior care from 1990-95 at a facility in Lincoln.
“I loved the sub-acute care unit there, so decided to obtain my administrator’s license,” she said.
In that process, she interned at Homestead, a 167-bed facility in Lincoln. After the internship, Homestead created an assistant administrator position for which she was hired.
In 1996, she became administrator at Belle Terrace in Tecumseh, a facility that had been cited for deficiencies by the state. However, in her first 10 years there, nine were without any state deficiencies, aided, she said, “by a great team.”
She eventually bought Belle Terrace with two other investors in 1999 then sold it in 2011. In the interim, she oversaw construction of a 36-bed assisted living facility on campus.
In 2000 while at Belle Terrace, Colling received the National New Administrator of the Year Award from the American College of Health Care Administrators. Her facility was ranked in the top 1 percent of 16,500 nursing homes in the U.S.
Prior to starting Lantern in 2012, she worked a year as a regional vice president for a Kansas management company.
Colling and Hight have known each other 20 years. They became acquainted as board members for the Nebraska Health Care Association.
Hight, who lives in York, retired in May 2014 but was coaxed by Colling to take the interim administrative position here.
Raised on an Iowa farm, Hight attended lab and x-ray tech college after high school in Minneapolis. He returned to school at Des Moines Area Community College, where he earned his health care administration training.
“And I’ve been in the field ever since. I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.
He’s worked the gamut of senior care facilities including non-profits, for-profits and city-owned. Along the way, he’s overseen several construction projects., too
He’s also worked on the financial end of senior care operations.
In that light, he said it’s important for Imperial’s facilities, which now operate without use of property taxes, to be profitable so that “they continue to be an asset in the community.”
This week, 30 residents were living in the manor with another 26 at Parkview/Heights.
The facilities employ 88 full and part-time employees.