Sandy Schade held a paintbrush Saturday, touching up trim around the elevators in the lobby of North Platte’s Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel.
Hotel residents and staff were in generally in a good mood, happy with the reinstatement of the hotel’s license to provide assisted living care.
The Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel got the reprieve March 8.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services restored its license to house, feed and administer medicines to people with health issues.
There are some 38 people living at the Pawnee now, most of whom have emotional and behavioral disabilities, Schade has said. The capacity is 75.
The Pawnee’s license was revoked in October, after four months of probation.
Nearly a year ago, inspectors found a wide range of deficiencies in the operation, but none that endangered the health and safety of residents, according to the HHS report. Inspectors returned regularly and in August found that medications were improperly administered, some carpets were torn and dirty, and there were bugs in an upstairs hallway.
The assisted living license was revoked in October. That was the start of a winter of troubles for the hotel. The 83-year-old boilers quit working in December and the staff scrambled to set up temporary heaters. During a 45 day period, nearly 20 residents moved out.
Many moved to other assisted living homes, such as North Platte’s Liberty House. A few got their own apartments, making the jump to independent living under supervision of state-approved guardians.
But after a formal hearing Jan. 30, the HHS found no further deficiencies and said the staff had made a good faith effort to improve. On March 8, HHS Hearing Officer Joann Schaefer, M.D., notified Schade that the hotel would remain on probation for many months, until July 2014.
But Schade said the notice is good news to her staff and the residents who remain.
“Of course I am happy for my residents, who are very enthused,” she told the Bulletin. “The ones who are here are here because they want to be.”
Schade must also come up with a workable operations plan within 30 days, showing the “ability to establish an ongoing pattern of conduct compliant with (license requirements) and housekeeping and maintenance to protect the health and safety of residents,” Schaefer’s decision said.
In May, the hotel can begin to accept up to 3-4 new residents a month. New residents were prohibited while its license was revoked.
Schade said she’s had some inquiries.
“I had thought we’d need to work on our reputation,” she said, “but I’ve already had five calls of folks wanting to move people in right away. The need is still there.”
Schade wants to bring an air conditioning unit into the hotel lobby before summer arrives and plans to install a new central heater in the lobby before next winter.
A newer heater in the lobby should cost less to operate than the old boilers, she said.
“It will be interesting next year,” she said. “Not using the boilers this winter and turning to electric heat has made a huge difference. Our utility bill is a lot less during the winter.”
Schade said the staff has solidified and the food is good, thanks in large part to donations of surplus foodstuffs from Wal-Mart.
Recently a small truckload of miniature roses was donated and are for sale. Such donations are appreciated but big financial challenges are ahead.
The elevator is fine and useable, but a state inspector says the cables need to be replaced soon.
“We manage one thing and another pops up,” Schade said. "These problems would go away if we had money."
Schade said getting the operation financially in the black is going to take awhile.
"We’ve never been in good shape,” she said.
Schade now carries a paint brush.
“Thelma Homlsted was our maintenance manager (for 30 years) and she always carried a paint brush,” Schade told the Bulletin Saturday. “It’s a good thing to do.”
The core of this report was published first in the March 13 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.