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Taking Stock and Taking Heart

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February 13, 2012

Ken Daniel

The Rev. Kenneth Daniel, President/CEO of United Church Homes

Some might say I came to United Church Homes at exactly the wrong time in the organization’s 92-year history. Within weeks of taking the helm as president and CEO, the state of Ohio announced significant cuts to Medicaid. Shortly thereafter came news from the federal government that gave senior living and healthcare providers across the nation pause.

On Oct. 1, Medicare reimbursement rates for skilled nursing residents were slashed 11.1 percent. And just last week, industry advocates said Ohio had become “ground zero” for skilled nursing job losses nationally.

The initial honeymoon of settling into my new role has been short-lived. Fortunately, for me and for United Church Homes, this is not the first time we have been tested by significant cuts in public funding of health care services for seniors. I am grateful for those past struggles because they’ve made us more vigilant about cost controls and more proactive in finding creative ways to be efficient. As a result, United Church Homes is well-positioned to not only survive these current economic challenges, but also to grow stronger because of them.

In the short term, however, we will feel the sting of these funding cuts company-wide. We’ve taken steps these past few months to mitigate the impact on United Church Homes’ team members. Simply put, these proactive measures saved jobs. Still, our skilled nursing communities have seen some changes as a result of these unprecedented cuts.

A small-scale reorganization at three communities — Parkvue, Fairhaven, and Four Winds — went into effect last fall. We took great pains to protect direct care positions at all our communities, and I’m pleased to say we were successful in that endeavor. Residents and their families can be assured that post-acute and rehabilitative therapies will not be affected. At United Church Homes, we simply are not willing to compromise on the standard of care for which we have long been recognized.

For administrators and caregivers, that means finding ways to provide the same high-quality care and service with fewer resources. Somehow, they will do just that. Making do with less, unfortunately, is a well-traveled path for all senior living and healthcare providers today.

Here at United Church Homes, we can take heart in our diversified business model, non-profit status, and long history of sound fiscal management — all of which offer us a relative advantage in successfully navigating these challenges today.

So, United Church Homes will once again adapt and reposition ourselves to survive and thrive despite the lean economy. None of us in senior management want to lose focus on the hard choices and hard work that lay ahead. The reality is sobering, to say the least. But with each passing day I feel more and more confident in our ability to adjust, respond, and reconfigure our services so that we can sustain and fulfill our historic mission as we have for nearly a century.

Everywhere I look, I see a team whose commitment is unparalleled, I hear from residents who are as committed to us as we are to them, and I feel the spirit of community that surrounds us all. This is the heart of the United Church Homes “Spirit” that I have experienced from day one. So I have arrived at the best possible moment in this organization’s history.