The next era of the Consulate begins with a new CEO, a focus on the local market and a reduced portfolio

For at least the past decade, Consulat Health Care was considered a skilled nursing giant. The long-term care provider at one point owned 208 buildings in 21 different states and was Florida’s largest nursing home provider.

Consulate has had its fair share of ups and downs, including a bankruptcy filing and a financial settlement with the Department of Justice. In December last year, the skilled nursing provider suffered a major downsizing – now operating only around 60 centers in five states.

The consulate currently operates in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana. All facilities operated by the Consulate in the State of Florida have been sold or transferred to another provider.

At the same time, several former Consulate executives – including former CEO Chris Bryson, COO Tim Lehner, CFO Greg Hayes and CTO Andi Clark – decided to join Synergy Health Care Services. , newly formed in Atlanta.

With restructuring comes new leadership – and the Consulate’s new CEO, Jeron Walker, took the helm in December 2021. Walker began his career in long-term care 23 years ago as an administrator in training after graduating from university.

Walker, a licensed nursing home administrator, served as president of the Consulate’s Mid-Atlantic Division before assuming his new role. He has also held leadership positions at Windsor Healthcare and Life Care Centers of America.

Walker told Skilled Nursing News that his understanding of the importance of building relationships at the grassroots level has allowed him to create a set of goals that he hopes will transform what people think of the consulate and what that residents and families live under their care.

“Our smaller footprint has allowed us to adjust our structure so that the local market is at the center of our concerns. I walk around when I visit our centers and I tell our general managers all the time: I work for you. I’m a shovel, put me to work,” he told SNN.

“That’s the approach I take and it allows our centers within each market to share what they need to be successful and then let me work with my team on those areas so they can focus on quality and connection within the centre,” he said. added.

Leadership is key

One of the first positions Walker added to the newly formed team was as CEO, Robin Baschnagel. The position tasks Baschnagel with cultivating and improving Consulate leadership at all levels.

The Consulate has developed a “really robust” Preceptor and Administrator-in-Training program, as well as a new initiative slated to launch this fall called the Consulate Leadership University. A number of candidates for the positions of executive director and chief nursing officer are chosen to take part in the one-year programme, he said.

“Leadership is key to our business, it’s key to me. For me, that’s always where we have great leaders in our buildings, we tend to have great results,” Walker told SNN.

Walker said these programs are part of the Consulate’s new set of core values, which include building connections and teamwork, helping leaders improve their grassroots skills, accountability and confidence, and work with attention to detail that promotes excellence in every building.

Given the difficult state of hiring and retaining nursing home staff at all levels, Walker recognizes the importance of finding more personalized ways to connect with employees.

The Consulate’s Transitional Health Services at the Kannapolis facility in North Carolina was able to eliminate the use of agencies in just a few months thanks to its executive director’s strategy to personalize the hiring experience for each new employee.

Executive Director Shawnna Fairman leads every interview at the Kannapolis Skilled Nursing Facility to get to know prospective employees on a personal level, Walker said. On their first day of employment, the goal is to connect them to the building and show them their value from the start.

A mentor is also appointed who has a vested interest in the success of their team member.

“When a leader commits to hiring their own staff, creating their own positive experiences that connect them to the center, we see great things happen in terms of reducing dependency on agency,” a- he declared.

And while it’s a program, Walker said he’d like to see each center implement, he understands that taking a market-driven approach means the ideas have to come from the centers themselves. themselves.

For example, a unique aspect of Kannapolis is the local connection to NASCAR.

“They’re taking pieces of that NASCAR component and racing…it’s part of their culture and their integration and the personality of those centers,” he said.

Together with the reception staff, the Consulate has also put in place a “care plan” for new staff members, not entirely different from the approach with new residents.

These care plans, according to Walker, let building leaders know how to best approach and help a staff member succeed.

“When we have a vested interest in them, when they know we value them, retention skyrockets, morale improves, and ultimately the quality of care improves as well,” Walker said. .

And while nearly all long-term care positions are hard to fill, certified health care nurses and certified practical nurses (CPNs) are especially scarce, according to Walker.

Since the start of the pandemic, the skilled nursing industry has lost 241,000 workers, or 15.2% of its total workforce. More recently, according to an analysis by Seniorly, 25% of establishments in the United States are reporting staffing shortages in 2022, compared to 16% in 2021.

Staffing shortages played a role in the resumption of occupation, Walker said. While declining to give specific percentages, Walker noted that consulate occupancy continues to grow but “probably not at the rate we would like.”

“We have centers that are fully occupied and those that have a ways to go with that…everyone is also in different phases of emerging the latest variants of Covid and that has dictated some of that growth,” he said. -he adds.

‘Somewhat outraged’ by Biden’s message on nursing home reform

Like many trained nursing leaders, Walker believes the Biden administration’s reform proposals for tougher penalties and fines, and the imposition of minimum staffing, are “far from the grassroots and out of touch.”

Walker highlighted the ways the nursing home profession has improved the quality of residents, including reducing hospitalization rates, reducing the use of unnecessary antipsychotic medications and providing more individualized care.

“We would like to hire more nurses and nursing aides, and as I said earlier, we are working hard to do that,” Walker said. “However, we cannot meet additional staffing needs as we continue to struggle to find people to fill the vacancies we currently have.”

The White House rolled out a comprehensive set of planned nursing home reforms in late February, aimed at “clamping down on bad actors”.

Reforms around federal staffing minimums remain a high priority for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) — the government agency tasked with conducting a study and publishing a proposed standard within a year.

“When we think about quality, what we’ve heard over and over again is staffing, and we’ve heard that from residents — speaking to them directly — we’ve heard that from staff,” the CMS administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, to SNN.

While Walker doesn’t think the ability to deliver quality care should be dictated by a minimum of staff, if such standards were in place and appropriately funded, he could see how it could be successful.

The bigger issue is the need for policymakers to invest in “a chronically underfunded health care sector,” he said.

The Consulate remains an active participant in each of the state associations in its markets, including arranging facility tours for state and local government officials.

“I feel like this is one area, Medicaid reimbursement or any reimbursement for that matter, that has an impact at the local level. When we connect and build relationships with our policy makers at the local level , and they’re able to understand our history, I feel like we’re going to improve Medicaid reimbursements going forward,” he said.