The North Bend Eagle



Birchwood hopes to reopen this week

Nathan Arneal
Published 5/8/19

After a long wrestling match with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Birchwood Manor hopes to be open and welcoming residents back perhaps as soon as this week. Birchwood is a senior and long-term care facility in North Bend.

Events stemming from the relocation of residents during the March flood led to Birchwood losing its license after DHHS said the residents were kept in an unsafe setting.

Before a hearing with DHHS set for April 23 happened, Birchwood and DHHS reached an out-of-court settlement April 11.

According to the settlement, a copy of which was provided to the Eagle by Birchwood owner Pamela Quinn, Birchwood paid a $10,000 fine to DHHS and neither party admits liability.

Quinn said she felt at the time that settling would be the quickest way for Birchwood to regain its license and residents, who are currently staying at other area nursing facilities. Even had the April 23 hearing gone in Birchwood’s favor, Quinn said, it would have been another month before it would be relicensed.

Quinn maintains that her staff did nothing wrong during the flood, and the settlement includes language stating that DHHS acted “based on its belief” in shutting down Birchwood without evidence that residents were put in an unsafe situation.

The settlement also stipulated that Birchwood pass a couple of inspections before reopening. The state fire marshal’s office came out right away and gave its okay April 11.

Then the state surveyor’s office came out to make sure there was no flood damage to the building April 29.

“They were in our building for five hours,” Quinn said, “flushing every toilet, opening every cupboard, running every faucet, opening all the windows, everything.”

Birchwood was told it wouldn’t be able to reopen until all the items on the surveyor’s list were taken care of, Quinn said, which included two leaky faucets and some windows that didn’t open.
On May 3, DHHS gave the okay for Birchwood to reopen pending one more walk-through by the state fire marshal.

Quinn hoped that inspection could take place as soon as Tuesday, May 7.

“I hope we’ll be ready to bring people back within the week,” she said.

Quinn said it has been a struggle to get DHHS to uphold its end of the settlement and conduct inspections in a timely manner. She said the governor’s office stepped in at one point and helped speed things up.

“We’ve been very frustrated and disappointed with the process,” Quinn said. “Department of Health and Human Services does not have an entity they are accountable to, so it created a lot of problems. There’s no reason the residents couldn’t have been back in the week of the (April) 15th, to be honest.”


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