In a narrow vote Wednesday morning, September 24, Dickens County Commissioners chose to discontinue operations at the White River Care Center in Spur. With that decision, the county has been released of any responsibility for the nursing home after Briarwood Nursing Centers LLC failed to follow through on a lease/purchase agreement with the county for the nursing home. Briarwood will cease operations and management at the nursing home effective October 16.
After reconvening in open session following an executive session which lasted an hour and 40 minutes, the commissioners court voted 3-2 to discontinue operations at the facility. Don Condron, Commissioner Precinct 1, made a motion for the county to keep the nursing home open, resume operations and accept liabilities for the facility. Sheldon Parsons, Commissioner, Precinct 4, seconded the motion. The motion failed 3-2 with commissioners Ricky West, Precinct 2, Doc Edwards, Precinct 3, and County Judge Lesa Arnold voting against that motion.
With that decision, the nursing home will cease operations and close its doors next month unless a buyer or management company can come in and take over management at the facility. Despite pleas from several connected with the nursing home and even not connected with the facility, the commissioners court still felt the financial risks and legal obligations were more than the county could bear. Seven people spoke in prepared statements to the court about their desires in support of keeping the facility. Only a few people, who spoke informally to the court or asked questions, wanted the county to cut ties to the nursing home.
The crowd, gathered inside the Dickens Senior Citizens Center where the meeting was held, seemed stunned as they exited the building. Some were surprised that a decision came so soon after Briarwood’s announcement just nine days prior to the meeting. Others were surprised that county officials would make what they considered a hasty decision.
Outside the senior citizens center, a group of nursing home employees gathered around Steve Moncrief, administrator at the facility, as he spoke with them about the court’s decision. They weren’t talking about the loss of their jobs, but showed more concern for the patients whom they care for on a daily basis.
“It’s all about people,” said one employee.
“It’s hard,” said Raquel Pesina, one of those employed at the care center. “We see residents come and go, but obviously they weren’t thinking about the residents.”
“I think they were very short-sighted,” said Moncrief. “We’re looking at 50 years into the future.”
“This place is going to be like California,” Moncrief said. “The population is going to explode, even out here.”
“And so, they’re going to need a nursing home in 10 or 15 years,” said Moncrief.
An hour after the meeting was adjourned, family members and employees were gathered on the porch of the nursing home talking about the repercussions they will feel from the court’s decision.
“We know things about these people their own families don’t know,” said Katherine Walker, an employee at the nursing home. “And then they(proponents for closing) just want to say, “Oh, well, they can just go somewhere else.’”
Walker also discussed the stress it will put on patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“Sometimes they never recover, because it just exacerbates their condition,” she said.
“Where do you think they feel more comfortable?” asked Fidel Pesina whose mother is a patient at the nursing home. “I walk in here just about every single day.”
Pesina said they recognize people they know, and those who have lived in the area all of their lives, see people come in that they know or at least recognize. Pesina said he would have to find someone to take care of his mother who is in her 8o’s.
“I’m the one who has been keeping an eye on her,” said Pesina. “Now I don’t know who else is going to take that position. I really don’t know.”
Pesina’s brother works at the nursing home.
“Some places we’re just not qualified to go work,” said Pesina. “It doesn’t take much qualifications, but still there’s certain rules you’ve got to go by.
Inside the dining area at the facility, Louise Wright was having lunch with her husband, Elmer. She was in attendance at the meeting in Dickens earlier. She was still reeling from the news.
“How long do we have?” she asked. “I’m going to have to rush.”
She had no idea what she would do next. She said they would both be moving wherever she could find a town with a nursing center for him and a place where she could live.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the shock seemed to have worn off and the reality of the nursing home’s fate was becoming more apparent when one resident’s family arrived at the nursing home ready to move their loved one to another facility in Crosbyton. Though Moncrief was talking with a management company about stepping in to run the facility, Linda Bradford, another employee at the facility, was worried about whether the company would still be interested as the number of residents at the home declined. She was already informed that another resident would be moving out on Saturday.
“It’s already happening,” she said. “With residents leaving, our count declines more, and do you think anyone will be interested in taking it (the nursing home)?”
Late Wednesday, Kathy Lisenbee, administrator at the Kent County Nursing Home, 25 miles away in Jayton, contacted the Spur Clinic to inform them that their facility was ready for anyone willing to come there, and the patients would be able to keep their current medical needs with the clinic, the pharmacy in Spur, and Dr. Steve Alley in Crosbyton. She said she would also try to put some of the nursing home employees to work at Kent County. So, while the nursing home may close, perhaps the changes will only be geographical for the residents and their families and even the employees.