Wahington Regional
Fayetteville City Hospital

An Editorial by J.A. Laughlin

Many of you in Northwest Arkansas and some of you around the country have now heard about Washington Regional closing down Fayetteville City Hospital. This decision has affected countless people in our region as well as several hundred people elswhere in the country. The 72 residents had to be relocated to other facilities. Whereas most of the residents went to other long-term care facilities in the area, some were moved as far away as the East and West coasts of our country. Many of these residents are frail and/or confused. Imagine being taken out of YOUR home and away from the people you know and see and trust every day to be sent to a place where you didn't know where you are, didn't know anyone around you and were dependant on these new people for all of your personal care. For those that can take care of themselves, you may not think this is a big deal. Remember that many of these residents can not feed themselves, put their own clothes on, use the toilet, shower or bathe or even wipe their own noses. They are COMPLETELY dependant on their caretakers. Tell me that doesn't take trust. Some of these people have lived at Fayetteville City Hospital for as long as thirty years. Some of their caretakers have been there as long as twenty years or more.
After a local news station ran a scathing report on the one-hundred year old building, Washington Regional decided to close down Fayetteville City Hospital rather than do as they had promised and either fix the building or build them a new building all together. This is just another example of how our healthcare system is broken. Our elderly and disabled are shoved aside for the almighty dollar. When 40/29 tv ran their report about the "deplorable" conditions these people were living in, Washington Regional closed FCH rather than face the public outcry and rather than letting the public find out that Regional had been stringing FCH along for years with promises of having the building fixed and later with promises of a new building. What were these "deplorable" conditions? The reporter for 40/29 tv never went into the building to find out. Instead they relied on a misguided, disgruntled employee's cell phone photos and a report from the DHS inspectors. The report cited that a toilet in a closed wing was disconnected and was covered with what appeared to be feces. Because the door to the wing was not locked it could have potentially put up to 30 residents at risk. The solution - lock the door. The toilet was disconnected from the sewer and it was covered with something nasty. It was admittedly an oversight on behalf of FCH, the toilet should have been cleaned long ago and the door to the closed wing should have been locked. The reason the toilet wasn't cleaned... no one goes into the closed wing and so no one knew about it.
The next accusation by the informant was that the Air Conditioning System broke down too often and made conditions unbearable. The state inspectors took temperature readings in the affected halls and found them to be well within state guidlines even on 100+ degree days. There was no report written as that complaint was dismissed and since then the rooftop unit has been fixed. Even with one unit down, there are many others to take up the slack.
The third complaint by the informant was roaches. Here is a point of contention. The exterminating service that FCH uses is very reputable and would come to FCH anytime pests or signs of pests were spotted in addition to their regular visits to keep pests under control. The offending vermin were quickly dispatched. The cell phone photos showed dried, crunchy roaches on top of the employee break room microwave, on top of a resident water pitcher and on a residents blankets on the bed, with the resident sleeping under the blankets. These roaches were obviously planted. The housekeeping crew at FCH is very thourough and that microwave is cleaned twice a day. If the roaches had crawled up there and died, why would they be there long enough to get dried out and crunchy when there are employees in that room and using that microwave several times a day? If the roach had crawled up on top of the resident water pitcher and died, how could it have had time to dry up and loose four of it's six legs? That would mean that no one was attending that water pitcher, which I know is false. And how could no one have seen the dead roach on the resident's bed for long enough that it dried up and became crunchy? I don't buy that for a minute. The care at FCH is exceptional in all aspects. I have no doubts that the roaches were planted by the cell phone photographer.
The last complaint was that the roof leaks. Okay... your point is? I have yet to see a one hundred year old building that has a flat roof that doesn't leak. Washington Regional has known the roof leaks for years. They had allowed the administrator of FCH (one of the most conciencious and caring people I have ever met) to gather bids on having the roof redone. Granted as slow as Washington Regional is to spend money on FCH it would have been a while before they would have allowed the roof repairs, it was in progress. The state report only cited the toilet on the closed wing as a problem with a solution of locking the door.

The Facts
FCH has consistently met state requirements for safety, nutrition and cleanliness in the unannounced inspections. They have a reputation for providing the highest quality care for a nursing home. They are always above the state requirements for staff to resident ratios. If you know anything about Nursing Homes or have worked in one what I am about to reveal will shock you. For the year of 2012, FCH only had two "tags" in state inspections. One for the toilet in the closed wing. As far as nursing homes go, that is incredible!

The Family
Unlike industrial or retail settings, long-term facilities are homes. The residents often spend their last years in these homes because they need around the clock care and controlled medications. Undeniably nursing homes are businesses, but first and foremost they are homes. Too many people forget that. These people move in when their other options are no longer feasable. They form a community with the other residents and in the better nursing homes, they form bonds and relationships of trust and love with the staff as well. I'm not saying that this is how it is at all nursing homes, but it should be. This is where these people live. FCH was one of the best nursing homes a resident could hope for. The staff truly cared about the residents and took the time to bond and develope these loving caretaker-resident relationships. The sense of community and family has been strongly emphasized and those new staff memebers that came there "just for a paycheck" were quickly run out by the residents and by the other staff members. By closing FCH, Washington Regional has effectivly sundered a very close family and scattered them about the region and the country. Unfortunately most nursing homes are cold, lifeless holes to put people in that need too much care to stay at home. They are focused on keeping their residents only for the income they provide. FCH spent as much effort, time and money on improving the lives of their residents as a good family would for their own family members.

The Fayetteville City Hospital Auxiliary
I need to mention the Fayetteville City Hospital Auxiliary. These men and women have put their hearts, souls and skills toward making sure that the residents had things to make them more comfortable. I could not begin to describe their dedication and tireless efforts. They ran a thrift store to provide equipment and luxuries to the residents of FCH. They ran community fundraisers and brought in donations to provide countless ammenities. They bought a bus for the activities department so that they could take residents out to movies and shopping and fishing and to the parks, etc. They have provided beds to replace the outdated crank beds, they provided flat screen digital TV's and dvd players, a popcorn machine, the lifts, dishes and so much more! They even pay the salary of one of the activities employees so that the activities department will always have more than one person to keep the residents active and involved. They have paid for resident trips such as the Nursing Home Pageants and they hire performers to come in and sing for the residents. I can't say enough about these wonderful auxiliary members.

A Shout out
Now that FCH is closing, I have to acknowledge some of the other area facilities. Most of the area facilities have been very gracious and accomadating to the staff and residents of FCH as they have been transporting residents to these other places.
North Hills Health and Rehabilitaion has been exceptionally kind and accepting. They have gone out of their way to make the transition as comfortable as possible for the residents and as painless as possible for everyone. Though I am not an employee of either FCH or North Hills, I thank them for being human and compassionate in this difficult time. I can not stress how wonderful their staff has been, a reflection of how their administrator runs the facility.
Springdale Health and Rehabilitation has also been very warm and welcoming and have bent over backwards to accomadate some of the special needs of transplanted residents as well as being compassionate towards the staff. Again, thank you for your humanity and compassion in this painful transition.

Now for some acknowledgements to the staff of FCH.

Jane Hardin Nemetz is the administrator of Fayetteville City Hospital and is one of the warmest, most compassionate people I have known. She has done an exceptional job at FCH with limited resources and heavy restrictions from Washington Regional. She has treated her staff with love and respect, even in the hardest of times. The warm home that is FCH is truly a reflection of how she works with her staff and residents. It takes all of the members to make a family, but without Jane's style of leadership, it would not have been possible to carry on the tradition of love that FCH has.
Genny Sparkman is the Human Resources officer for FCH as well as the Washington Regional Clinics. She has been working hard to place the staff wherever she can find positions and has been a warm hearted and caring member of the FCH family.
Lisa Lewis is the Activities Director at FCH. She has been there for twenty years and has poured her heart and soul into making the residents lives as full and fulfilling as possible. She has run a premier activities department and is loved and respected by both staff and residents. She keeps morale up and tensions down by providing a smile and encouragement wherever she can. She takes the residents out of the facilty and helps them be a part of the Northwest Arkansas Community.
Michelle Sutton is the social worker for FCH. She has a tough job. She schedules all the appointments for the residents as well as finding information for families and arranging whatever she is asked to arrange. She has really stepped up to the plate and is a valued and loved member of the family.
Penny Brewer is the director of nursing at FCH and has seen to the medical care of her residents with diligence, perseverance and love. As good hearted of a person as you can find anywhere, she is a true asset and the matriarch of the nursing staff.
Pam Vaughn, Sandy Satterfield and the kitchen staff have been wonderful in their care of the residents and the staff, going out of their way on many occasions to make the special functions such as the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners so enjoyable as well as catering the other functions.
James Hill and his houskeeping and laundry staff keep things clean and warm at FCH while adding wonderful personal touches. They go out of their way to spend time with the residents and do an incredible job of keeping a very old building clean and homey.
Quint and Chris of maintainance. What can I say. Talk about a high demand job! These guys keep the building functioning, which is no easy task. It's like keeping the titanic afloat with duct tape and bubble gum. Impossible, right? But they do it. I think Quint is McGuyver in disguise.
Megan Preston, Jenifer Lewis, Shelly Wallace, "Momma" Jo, Jerri, Connie and all the others that keep things running and in order. The front office, medical Records, Supplies etc. In most facilities these people are "behind the scenes" and may not even be known by anyone outside the staff. These people are not hiding in the shadows. They are actively among the residents on a daily basis and provide direct interaction and love on top of doing their jobs.
Last but certainly not least, The Nursing Staff. These dedicated and hardworking Nurses and CNA's provide the medical, mental and emotional care the residents need. They work tirelessly to make sure the needs of the residents are met, even when the residents can't voice their own needs. They treat the residents with love and respect even in the most demanding of situations.
I have an incredible amount of respect for the staff of FCH and in their futures I hope they all find what they have given. Comfort, love, respect and hope. There is a pretty good chance that we will all end up in a long-term care facility at some point in our lives. Some of them are decent, some are bad, a few are truly deplorable. Every once in a while there is one that shines and upholds the ideal of a home for those that need special care. Fayetteville City Hospital was one that set standards for loving, respectful care that could make any building a true home for it's residents and staff.
The loss of this facility is truly the loss of the greater Northwest Arkansas Community. My hope now is that North Hills Health and Rehab and Springdale Health and Rehab continue with the promise that they show right now. A void has been opened and they have the opportunity to fill it.
As for the staff of FCH, the heartbreak will heal in time, but the memories are forever. You need to know that you have made an incredible difference in the lives of the residents that you cared so deeply for and you have made a differnce to all of the families who's lives you have touched over the years. There is hope that there will be facilities with the morals, compassion, dedication and love like that which you have shown. You have proven that a nursing home can be so much more than just a medical business. Thank you, from the community and myself.

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Copyright © 2014 J.A. Laughlin

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