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Hi-Line Retirement Center Provides Update, Welcomes Hanawalt as Interim Administrator

While still heading towards closure by the last week of October, Hi-Line Retirement Center welcomed a new face, Kent Hanawalt as Interim Administrator.

Hanawalt, who had started at HLRC in mid-August, along with HLRC Board Chairman Logan Lund both confirmed that Hanawalt was not there to save HLRC, but to help the facility end things on good terms.

"Doing everything right on the way out is important," Lund said.

The first order of business was to help fix HLRC's deficiencies, as issued by the state.

"They have been declared out of compliance on August 2, and so, I have been writing the plans of correction, to get us back in compliance," Hanawalt said.

Hanawalt expects the facility to be within full compliance prior to the survey which will be taken this week.

"There are certain benefits to doing that, related to what the degree that the civil money penalties are," Lund said.

Though neither Lund nor Hanawalt clarified what those deficiencies at HLRC entail, they did share that the facility had eight of them and that it was typical for a facility to have deficiencies due to the constant changing of regulations.

"This facility had no more infractions than are common nationwide," Hanawalt said.

Most of the infractions occurred during HLRC's attempt to become an Assisted Living Facility. A goal that was set for Monday, August 1.

"There was a lot to do with the transition and it didn't transpire the way that it needed to," Lund said.

After working with the Montana Board of Nursing, Lund was able to bring in Hanawalt, who has a Nursing Home Administrator's License and owns a ranch outside of Big Timber, in McLeod.

"We were able to get Kent on board, and that was a big deal for us," Lund said.

After the deficiencies are fixed, then HLRC will eventually know how much their fines will be.

"We don't have a number at this time," Lund said.

In addition, the facility will be eligible to bill Medicaid again, while it has clients.

"This whole business is a tough business," Hanawalt said. "Glasgow has sixty-plus residents. You need a volume of residents to cover your overhead."

Hanawalt said that he goes from place to place all over the state.

"I was in Glasgow three years ago, and they were in a rough patch," Hanawalt said. "We got through it and hired a new administrator and it's still there."

He said that many facilities around the state do not have a mortgage payment as well as Levies. HLRC's mortgage is currently $3.6 million.

"So, you have some extra expenses here and not as much financial support," Hanawalt said. "The prospect of keeping this nursing home open, no. It can't be done, as a nursing home. It could, however, be done, if the hospital would take on some of these rooms as swing beds."

Hanawalt's outside perspective mirrors that of former HLRC Administrator Duane Murray, who before stepping down, mentioned that the facility needed several things to fall in line for the facility to keep its doors open.

"There is a long-term model out there in which long-term care can be preserved," Hanawalt said. "With the cooperation of the hospital. It's called a community access hospital, where they are allowed to have 25 swing beds, which can be used for acute, rehab, or long-term care. This model is being used in Terry, Baker, and many communities around the state."

Hanawalt believes that they have been financial assumptions made by the hospital that hasn't been sufficiently investigated.

"The welfare of this community depends on cooperation between the hospital and the long-term care provider and that cooperation has been lacking," he said.

Hanawalt said that as the facility closes, the community is losing community members, families, and jobs.

"We all know how important long-term care is," Hanawalt said. "We are giving up several millions of dollars in income that no longer comes to this community."

According to Hanawalt and his research, a dollar circulates five to seven times in a community.

"So, if we lose three million dollars a year in long-term care income, that's five to seven million dollars that won't be spent here," he said. "That is 50 people, who lose their jobs, and anything that we can do to preserve any of that is of value to the community.

Lund said that eventually, another company can purchase the facility from the USDA, but it would take a couple of years at best to become a feasible nursing home facility.

"Reality is that the facility could sit vacant for a year, or two years because we are dealing with national officials," Lund said.

Lund said that by the end of the week, the facility aims to have only four nursing home residents and four assisted living residents. He did not say how many would be living in the apartments at the time of print.

Hanawalt confirmed that HLRC has discharged most of the facility's residents and is actively laying off staff. He also said that the board has approved a meaningful severance package for the staff.


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