Wildflower Court aims to switch to nursing beds

Senior center says it can't fill its space for assisted living

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Wildflower Court, a nursing home and assisted-living facility in Juneau, has asked the state for permission to convert all of its beds to serve people who need nursing care.

The state will hold a public hearing on the application from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Juneau Public Library downtown.

Wildflower Court officials say there's a waiting list for nursing beds, but it hasn't been able to fill its assisted-living wing, where residents are helped with daily tasks such as preparing meals and dressing.

The private, nonprofit Wildflower Court, formerly St. Ann's Care Center downtown, moved to a new building next to Bartlett Regional Hospital in May 2001. It has 44 nursing beds and 11 assisted-living beds, including one that can be used for hospice care, or care of the dying.

Some local doctors and social-service providers have written letters in support of the application, saying fewer Juneau residents would have to leave town for nursing services if the assisted-living beds are converted.

But some Juneau residents oppose the proposed change, saying there aren't many alternatives in town for people who need assisted living, and some of those options don't match the services at Wildflower Court.

Wildflower Court is the only state-licensed nursing home in Juneau and one of five in Southeast, state records show. Other than the assisted-living wing at Wildflower Court, there are three state-licensed assisted-living homes in Juneau.

The Juneau Pioneers' Home has 48 beds and an active waiting list of about 30 people, state officials said. Although licensed for assisted living, the Pioneers' Home provides skilled-nursing services to some of its residents, said administrator Rosemary Gute-Gruening.

Privately owned Shattuck Manor downtown and Linda's House in Lemon Creek have five beds each for assisted living. Also, some Juneau residents receive assisted-living care in their homes.

The six residents in the assisted-living wing at Wildflower Court would be grandfathered in if the state approves its application to convert the beds, said Larry Persily, president of Wildflower Court's board of directors.

But Wildflower Court wants the ability to convert empty assisted-living beds to nursing beds, he said. There are 15 people on its waiting list for nursing beds, and Wildflower Court can't afford to build a new nursing wing, he said.

Meanwhile the empty assisted-living beds represent a loss of income at a time when Wildflower Court must pay its mortgage on the new building, he said.

The state Department of Health and Social Services will take written comments on the application until Sept. 22 by mail, e-mail or fax. David Pierce, certificate of need coordinator, said he expects to forward a recommended action to the agency's commissioner by Nov. 21.

Comments can be sent to Pierce at the department at P.O. Box 110650, Juneau AK 99811-0650, by e-mail at david_pierce@health.state.ak.us, or by fax at (907) 465-2499.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@junjeauempire.com.

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