Former nursing home families, employees struggle

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Lila Herod's great-uncle was living at Valley View Manor before the nursing home closed its doors earlier this month.

"It's been stressful," Herod said of moving her great-uncle, Ferd Behrman, to his new home -- a facility for veterans in Rifle. "It's hard for him."

The 90-mile drive is what has been most difficult, Herod said.

She makes the trip with Eloise Waters, whose husband also moved to the nursing home there after Valley View Manor closed.

"It works out well for both of us," Herod said.

They share each others company, which makes the miles go by faster, and it allows Waters to see her husband once a week.

Mariner Health Care, which owned the only nursing home in Craig, shut down the facility July 8 because of financial reasons.

The readjustment has not been the easiest for Herod's great-uncle, who lived at Valley View Manor for two years.

"To me, he is very unhappy," Herod said. "His biggest deal is if he wants to leave, he can't because he is in an unfamiliar place."

Herod said because of the proximity to family, her great-uncle felt like Craig was home. It was familiar to him.

"But if he were to walk out of the nursing home in Rifle how would he get home?" Herod said.

Another frustration is that if her great-uncle needs something, it takes Herod's family a while to get it to him.

"(Picking out a new nursing home) was the hardest decision of what was good for him," Herod said. "It was very sad. The staff loved my uncle and they all had to leave."

Those who worked there also are going through some rough adjustments.

Staff had been told about two months prior to the closing that they would soon be out of work.

"Last December, they told us they were not going to close it down," Sharmin Craig, the assistant recreation director, said. "They never gave any of the employees notice until the meeting in June."

The morning before Mariner Health Care made the announcement, Craig submitted her application for Colorado Northwest Community College's new nursing program. The nursing home had promised some of its employees that the company would work around employees' schedules so employees could attend classes to become certified nurses.

But now Craig is looking at trying to cover the expenses of daycare and going to school without a job.

"I used to make $12 an hour," Craig said. "Not many people pay as well. It's hard to replace that in Craig.

"We (Valley View Manor) employed a lot of single parents. They could work at a fast-food joint but they aren't going to make the same money."

Craig stayed in town after the nursing home closed down because this is where she and her husband want to raise their children, Craig said.

They own a home here and Craig's husband has a job here. She said she hopes to get her nursing degree so she can apply to work at a clinic or other health care facility in the area.

While Craig is not leaving town, she said other former employees are not so sure.

"I know some were talking very seriously about leaving," Craig said.

But then some of the employees were not from Craig.

"We had people driving in from different places to work at the nursing home, including one girl from Baggs, Wyo.," Craig said. "But the community can only support so many certified nurse assistants."

While The Memorial Hospital looked at what could be done to stop the closure, it currently does not have plans at this time to purchase the Valley View Manor building and reopen the facility.

"We are having a feasibility analysis done," said Randy Phelps, The Memorial Hospital administrator.

The analysis should be completed within 30 days and then Phelps said the hospital would see where the private investors are.

He has been told there is a group headed by Pam Young of Northwest Health Specialists, which is looking at purchasing the building.

"We would cooperate with them to the degree that made sense from a business standpoint," Phelps said. "The hospital is not particular as to who buys the building -- we just want long-term health care in our community."

But Phelps said Mariner Health Care has not been particularly helpful in giving financial information regarding Valley View Manor, including the price of the building. He said he sent a formal letter two weeks ago to the health care company requesting the price of the building and has not been contacted since.

Herod said even if Valley View Manor were to reopen, she would have her doubts about bringing her great-uncle back to Craig.

"If they are going to reopen it, do we dare put our family members back?" Herod said. "I don't want to deal with it."

Liz King is an intern with the Craig Daily Press. She can be reached at 824-7031 or eking@craigdailypress.com.

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