During its April 21 meeting, the Richland County Board of Supervisors set aside about an hour to hear about a proposed project to renovate and expand the Pine Valley Healthcare and Rehabilitation facility.
Among those present were CG Schmidt personnel: Senior Vice President Dan Davis, Director of Preconstruction Services Tom Baade, and Senior Designer Jeff Bogart. Pine Valley personnel present included Director Kathy Cianci and Social worker Ryan Elliott. Several individuals also attended in order to provide testimonials.
Jeff Bogart and Tom Baade (pronounced BAY-dee) of CG Schmidt showed a virtual presentation that provided a bird’s-eye glimpse of both the proposed exterior and interior of the project. They provided much information on the scope of the project and on its beneficial aspects; both with regards to the comfort and safety of residents and to the efficiencies and overall cost-savings potential.
Several private citizens provided testimonials and urged the supervisors to vote in favor of the project.
Barb Borton stated that her mother, Elsie Gillingham, has been a resident since September of last year; just before her 97th birthday.
Borton said her mother is in a room with another woman and the space is so small, which allows for a resident to only have very little in the way of personal belongings. “Personal items are so important to the elderly,” Borton said, also noting that there are challenges with regards to getting her mother to the shower. She said the proposed new facility would eliminate the need to traverse long hallways to get to the shower and would allow the addition of central heating and cooling. “We don’t all like the same temperature in a room,” Borton said. Additionally, she noted that being in a single room would help with privacy.
“It’s time for an efficient Pine Valley center,” Borton said. “Please let me compliment the workers and administration at Pine Valley.”
Pine Valley employee Stacy Hemling, an aide, helps with daily activities. She said the big windows of the proposed new living spaces would be an asset. “The kitchen would be a major asset,” she said. “Families could cook with grandpa and grandma or they could cook for their family. They could bake cookies. It would be more homelike.”
Joanne Garner and her sister Susan represented their father, the late John Garner, who had been a Pine Valley resident. Joanne provided a testimonial to the Supervisors.
Joanne said, “It’s apparent (there is) a great need to improve the facility.” She said she works in health care, putting in infrastructure -- computers and architecture -- for patient care at nursing homes. “The Pine Valley staff doesn’t have the facilities they need to do their jobs,” she said.
She said that her parents believed in keeping money local and helping local residents.
“I endorse this building opportunity,” Joanne said. “You can’t Band-Aid infrastructure.”
Joanne said that her father had the breathing disease COPD and that Pine Valley doesn’t have a controlled environment to provide a drip system for pain, or compressed air.
“They need medical devices in the rooms,” she said. “Nurses have to use sheets of paper for ongoing records. I haven’t seen that since the 1950s. I encourage you to please endorse and support this (building project).”
Bob Anderson, whose mother resided at Pine Valley at least 10 years, said that she was in a room with another woman. “If both families came at once there was no room and there were clashing conversations,” he said, adding that it’s an uncomfortable situation when roommates aren’t well-matched.
“The staff went above and beyond and Mom came to love them for their dedication,” he said.
Anderson stated, “The bathrooms are really old looking and the showers are not convenient. And she had an air conditioner in the window right by her bed. In the winter a cold draft came through. It’s very inefficient. One time an elevator was down for weeks. Another time I saw pipes being put in the ceiling.”
Pat Rippchen, who was a Registered Nurse at Pine Valley for 14 years, said, “This community deserves a modern up-to-date facility.”
She said there is a need to keep people locally and they need to feel at home.
“Private rooms would solve a multitude of problems,” Rippchen said.
“(Residents) would be safer. They wouldn’t be near an exit door. Private bathrooms would be wonderful. The temperature change from the room to the hall is less than ideal.”
She spoke of problems that arise when residents are compelled to share rooms. “Acutely ill end-of-life patients have increased needs,” she said. “The roommate gets disturbed often. (Each resident should have) total privacy during treatment. A patient deserves to have questions answered and the roommate hears everything...One elderly man was traumatized when he was roommates with a man who died.”
Rippchen said that having two people in one room results in difficulties related to their individual needs for comfort. She said, “One is by the window and one is by the door. It’s inconvenient...There are roommate squabbles. We get set in our ways. Much time is spent (by staff) being a referee. Residents need their own personal space. You go from a houseful of possessions and, when in a double room, you can bring very little. With your own room you can bring a bit more.”
Technology also presents difficulties in the old building, Rippchen said. “There are no phones on the upper floors,” she said. “There are only two portable phones and the staff spends time running them around, with dozens of patients sharing them. It’s a terrible public image when (the phones) don’t work. Computer reception is sketchy in some rooms. I don’t think you can fix it in that building. It’s very frustrating. Hats off to maintenance staff for keeping it functioning as well as it has.”
Rippchen supports the proposal to build an addition for Pine Valley. “Efficiency will be much-enhanced,” she said, “and you won’t have extra steps to insure privacy.”
Pine Valley Social Worker Ryan Elliott read a letter from John and Alice Fowell, who could not be present. John’s mother, Ruth Fowell, is a Pine Valley resident.
The Fowells wrote, “The news of a new building is an enormous relief.” They said that his mother is refusing to take a shower now that she’s been moved to the third floor, whereas she used to take showers when she was on the lower floor. They said the shower is too far from her room, it’s too cold to and from the shower, and the shower water temperature fluctuates.
The Fowells’ letter said that his mother was traumatized by the death of her roommate, followed by her pleading for a private room. However, the new room was next to an unheated hallway and was too cold. She was then moved to a sunnier room, but the air conditioner blows cold air on her.
“A new facility could easily address these issues,” the Fowells wrote. “Individual temperature controls could be available...It should seem more like home than an institution.” They said Richland County needs a facility consistent with the standard of the staff.
Supervisor Virginia Wiedenfeld stated that her husband was at Pine Valley eight days and she was upset about the lack of electrical outlets.
Vice Chair Fred Clary said, “The subcommittee has worked long and hard and every member has done a very diligent job.” He stated that plans include private bathrooms and temperature control in each room. “The (facility) will be more energy-efficient,” Clary said. “One floor will lead to many efficiencies.”
Supervisor Tom Crofton said, “There are many paybacks for investing in energy efficiencies. (We have put a) tremendous amount of effort into making a solid building that will last a long time and cost less to operate.”