Potential Birchtree Buyout Renews Hope of Clinton Community




Potential Birchtree Buyout Renews Hope of Clinton Community
By: Kate Scott

(Clinton, KY)--A Sikeston company is trying to give new life to the bankrupt Birchtree Healthcare facility. 

Arbor Health Properties has offered 1.8 million dollars for the Clinton, Kentucky nursing home, once owned by Tina Conner.  Conner claims that Kentucky Governor Paul Patton sent in state regulators to crack down on the facility when she ended their affair.  Patton has denied abusing his power.  The nursing home closed in December, after a string of health and safety violations caused it to lose its Medicare-Medicaid reimbursement.  Since then, a Louisville-based company, EPI, tried to take over the business and restructure its finances. EPI has since dropped out of the project.

Now talk of another company taking over the nursing home has renewed the hopes of the Clinton community.  Although Arbor Health President John Sells still has to get takeover approval from a federal bankruptcy judge, he anticipates closing the deal within a few weeks.  Once that happens, he tells Heartland News he's prepared to reopen the nursing home immediately, which is great news for people in Clinton.

“I am excited, I really am!” exclaims former worker Tammie Jackson.  “I've been waiting and praying for this day.”  Jackson was a dietician at Birchtree Healthcare, before she lost her job in December. Unlike many Birchtree workers, she has been lucky enough to find work since then at the local Jiffy Mart.  But Jackson says she's still been counting on getting her old job back.  “I need it,” she tells Heartland News.  “Working here until it does open helps pay my bills, but I need insurance and stuff like that. And I like working with the older people, the residents, because they're so sweet.  It doesn't take you any time to get attached to them!”

Hickman County EMS workers were attached to them too. At one time, Birchtree's elderly residents made up eighty percent of the ambulance service's runs and subsequent income.  “We used to do about sixty runs a month,” says Director Paula Boaz.  “We did two last week.”  Since the nursing home closed, Boaz says the EMS service has had to make several rounds of cutbacks, and has even had to consider the possibility of closing the area's only ambulance service, which is not funded by taxes.  “I think at our last board meeting, they had decided that we could go on like we were for less than a year,” she says.  “Then we would run out.” 

But Boaz and Hickman County’s other EMS workers aren't running out of hope yet, now that there's the prospect of another company reopening the nursing home before its too late. Boaz says once Birchtree’s halls fill with residents, it wouldn’t be long before the EMS got back to making plenty of routine runs, and making the money it needs to stay in service.  “I would say within six months, we would be able to get back even on the board,” she predicts.

The Hickman County Ambulance Service also depends on its $60 a year membership fees to stay afloat.  Boaz tells Heartland News that since the nursing home closed, some members have paid their dues “plus” extra money, which has really helped the EMS make ends meet.