Pauls Valley city officials have now taken a step to drop the number of licenses it holds for nursing homes scattered across the state.
Earlier this week the local city council gave its stamp of approval to transferring nearly half of its operating licenses and terminating agreements for a federal reimbursement program not in place for Oklahoma.
Even with critics still pointing a finger of shame for the city of PV even having these licenses in the first place, it was business as usual for local officials.
In all, the city will transfer 13 of the 28 licenses back to the operators of nursing homes in places like Pauls Valley, Wynnewood, Moore, Wewoka and Kingfisher.
“What the council did was to revert the nursing homes back to the owners of the nursing homes,” PV City Manager James Frizell said.
“The licenses were reverted back to the actual owners.”
Pauls Valley has for some time been among the Oklahoma municipalities acquiring licenses for nursing homes, which are overseen by the state Health Department.
The idea has been to pursue a federal bonus payment program, the Nursing Facility Upper Payment Limit program, offered through the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Those additional Medicaid monies to qualifying nursing homes were meant to help both the residents in those facilities and participating towns with their local healthcare.
For Frizell and other city officials all of that has only been in theory since the UPL program, in place for other states likes neighboring Texas, has so far not been approved for the state of Oklahoma.
“We have not spent any money. We have not received any money,” the city manager said about criticisms of cities holding licenses for nursing homes on the claim it results in poor care for residents.
“The licenses reverting back doesn't hurt or help the residents. We've never had any say so with the care of residents.
“We're not health professionals, so we've never been involved in the direct care of the residents.”
This week's council action was described as a transfer of the licenses and “unraveling” of the UPL agreements.
According to Frizell, it was done to help the city of PV better manage the number of licenses it holds, which is now at 15.
He is quick to add if the UPL program is never approved for Oklahoma those licenses could also someday be transferred back to the homes' owners.
However, if the approval does happen any revenue coming from it would still go to help healthcare in Pauls Valley even though the local hospital is closed.
“We're trying to keep these ambulances up and running,” Frizell says about the three now in service in the Pauls Valley area.
“All of this was born out of the idea to improve healthcare in Pauls Valley. Unfortunately it didn't help our hospital.
“Our mission remains the same – to improve the healthcare of Pauls Valley.”
One of the big critics of the city-owned licenses for nursing homes has been Skip Mitchell of Forum Consulting in Lindsay.
He released a statement that in part indicated he thought this action was a “good first step” by the city of Pauls Valley.
“We have visited with the state long-term ombudsman, and he has assured us that his staff will be visiting the affected facilities as the transition in ownership occurs,” Mitchell said.
“Our staff will be closely watching the records at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the state agency that allowed this horrible situation to occur, to ensure that the proper protocols are followed.”