On the heels of Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare’s announcement to close its Livermore skilled nursing facility, community members responded to air their grievances.
Set to shutter officially June 27, officials first made the announcement in May, citing the decision to correspond with COVID-19 preparedness guidelines. When staff members who lost their jobs came forward to note the facility was already vetted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and completely ready to handle an influx of cases, those who once sought care there also joined the conversation.
One such Livermore resident, Ruth Gasten, reported the level of care she received after she broke her pelvis and right arm in 2018 to far exceeded her expectations. She believes there are no comparable options within her city.
“The skilled nursing in Livermore was the only one with that kind of rating with occupational and physical therapists,” she said. “They took you for walks and did everything they could to help you get better. That was the first time I’d been in that facility, and I was absolutely astonished at the level of care. What are they going to do to replace it?”
When Gasten left the facility nearly a month after admittance in 2018, she was able to walk again. She said she hopes the organization will have a change of heart and reconsider options to remain open.
Denise Bouillerce, Director, Government and Community Relations, confirmed that the decision is indeed final. However, she noted the Case Management team at Stanford Heath Care – ValleyCare has engaged in the development of a preferred network of top-quality skilled nursing programs in the community.
“This network will serve our patient populations extremely well, given the new realities that we face as health care delivery organizations during COVID-19,” Bouillerce said. “There are an adequate number of skilled nursing facility beds within the Tri-Valley community to meet the demand for patients seeking that level of care.”
Bouillerce noted the organization is finalizing new clinical protocols that will maintain patients that are at high risk within the hospital environment until it is safe to discharge them into a congregant living situation (skilled nursing facility) or home.
“We believe that this will help to ensure the highest standards of safety and care for our patients and our communities in the future,” she said.
But for Gasten, another concern with the move was also the message it would send to the residents who originally banded together to fund the hospital’s construction.
“I am disturbed that the skilled nursing facility in Livermore was closed,” said Gasten. “In 1962, many residents of Livermore, including my late husband, generously supported the building of Valley Memorial Hospital so that there would be a hospital in Livermore.”
Gasten’s activity in her hometown also extends to running Head Start programs for low-income families and launching Interfaith Interconnect, which facilitates connections between people from diverse backgrounds to foster understanding.
“The hospital eventually moved to Pleasanton, but at least the five-star rated skilled nursing facility was still in Livermore,” she said. “Now that is being closed. The people who donated to build the hospital in the first place are left with no facility for rehabilitative care at all.
Bouillerce stated that Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare’s decision to close the skilled nursing facility does not reflect the organization’s larger vision for the Livermore community.
“There are plans for enhancing and implementing new services which are indicative of how critical we believe this community to be and how important it is to continue to serve the community of Livermore,” she said.
She pointed out that the campus has diagnostic imaging, a laboratory, an outpatient surgery – ambulatory surgery center, a gastroenterology lab, an urgent care, a pharmacy, a LifeStyleRx medical fitness center, cardiac rehabilitation, sports medicine, pulmonary rehabilitation, a sleep center, medical offices, food and nutrition services, among other services.
Gasten still had concerns that Stanford, which took over ValleyCare in 2015, was ignoring the community’s needs.
“The skilled nursing facility was closed for financial reasons,” she continued. “Perhaps service to the community is more important than Stanford’s balance sheet. I think that the Livermore community gave so generously to build (ValleyCare), and we deserve to retain the skilled nursing facility. How can we get Stanford to change its mind?”