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State Readies Plan For Opening Nursing Homes, But Industry Skeptical

May 22, 2020
Staff wearing protective gear work at an eastern Oklahoma nursing home.
Provided

State health officials are developing a plan that could allow visitors back into nursing homes. But facility managers and industry advocates point to complications with testing and a shortage of protective equipment as signals that Oklahoma isn’t ready to reopen the homes.

Nursing home residents are especially susceptible to pneumonia. It can be prevented by good oral care.
Kateleigh Mills / KOSU

Nurses and aides sit on couches and armchairs usually reserved for movie night. The workers recoil as pictures of severe plaque, tooth decay and bleeding sores are projected on the wall of the nursing center in Meeker.

Kay Stokes pushes her husband, Roger, in a wheelchair outside of Grace Living Center in Oklahoma City. Grace is one of the nursing homes of which the City of Pauls Valley has become its designated owner.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A handful of small Oklahoma cities have become owners of dozens of Oklahoma nursing homes across the state in the past 15 months, hoping to tap into a federal program that will bring them millions of dollars.

State long-term care ombudsman Bill Whited, holding a picture of his grandmother, Pearl Wolf.
M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

In the summer of 2013, Pearl Wolf, 93, got sick and went to the hospital. After watching her health decline, her family decided to place Wolf in a nursing home.

“She was really starting to deteriorate,” her grandson, Bill Whited, said.

The family decided to place Wolf in Rose Manor in Shawnee. Located near Wolf’s house, the facility accepted Medicaid and Medicare patients and Whited considered its staff excellent. The family hoped Wolf would get well enough to return home.

Oklahoma nursing homes are rated 49th and Oklahoma’s health care system for the elderly is ranked 47th in two new studies. A three-year $11.5 million dollar grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative will help deal with some of the shortcomings. Increased state funding is still needed to improve the health of Oklahoma seniors.

Oklahoma State Capitol
ensign_beedrill / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of Democratic lawmakers is hosting a rally and a legislative study on the condition of the state's nursing homes after Oklahoma recently received an "F'' grade in a national ranking of the states.

A rally to improve the condition of the state's nursing homes will begin at noon Wednesday on the south steps of the Capitol.

That will be followed by an afternoon study that will include a presentation from the executive director of Families for Better Care.

ulrichkarljoho Flickr / Creative Commons

A group of legislators and advocates for improving Oklahoma nursing homes are criticizing House Speaker T.W. Shannon's decision to reject an interim legislative study to explore the issue.