By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – A discussion was held regarding the Elkhart Oaks Nursing Center during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Elkhart City Council held Tuesday, Feb. 20 in the Elkhart City Office.

The nursing center’s new administrator, Mark Moore, was present at the meeting to speak with the council.

“We are increasing our census, which is a great thing,” Moore said. “We’re getting a lot of what we call referrals – people coming in from the community and the surrounding area. Most importantly, we’re getting the almighty Medicare referrals. Those are the ones that come in short-term for therapy and then, they go home.

According to Moore, the nursing center’s “customer satisfaction rating” has increased a great deal.

“That means that people are having a better experience; they’re getting better and healed well,” he pointed out.

Moore said the center is “running at full staff” and is short only a couple of nurses, an issue currently being experienced by various other care centers.

“We still try to hire as local as we can, but we take from wherever we can,” he said of the entity’s hiring process. “It’s also good – let’s just say if we get a new hire from Crockett or Palestine. They’re coming into our town; they’re bringing dollars into our town, whether it be filling up with gas, getting pizza at the local place, whatever it is.”

Moore said his fellow Elkhart Oaks officials are intent not only on bettering the facility, but the city as well.

“That’s the goal,” he pointed out. “We all have to work in the community. We all have to stick together and help each other.”

One member of the council inquired whether Elkhart Oaks is currently operating at full capacity.

“We’re only at about 57 percent capacity,” Moore reported. “We’re licensed for 102 patients, and right now, we’re running between 52 and 54. It just kind of varies with our Medicare census that we’re bringing in, because they only come in anywhere from 20 to 100 days, and then, they go home.

“What we would like to see is, obviously, is more Medicare – short-term patients coming in and out, but also some long-term care patients that are going to be there for the duration of their life,” Moore said. “So, no, we are not at capacity, but that is something that we’re working hard for.”

Moore was also asked whether the current locations of the signage providing direction to the nursing center were suitable, to which he responded affirmatively.

“We don’t need more signage out, because the people that come to our facility – they’re either local people who’ve known where this facility is their entire life, or they’re people that are coming from Tyler or Palestine for a long-term stay. There’s no sense in spending any more tax dollars or anything putting out more signage for our facility. The two that are showing where to turn on Jones Rd. are just fine.”

It was explained the reason for the topic of signage being brought up was a former mayor and Elkhart Oaks employee ordering the removal of the nursing home’s signs approximately three years ago.

“I think the city has better uses of its funds,” Moore said. “But I appreciate y’all offering and asking about it.”

Moore was assured that no such removal will ever be forced going forward, as Public Works Supervisor B.J. Perry, who was ordered to take the signs down, is now under a contract which enables him to avoid being in such a position going forward.

The signs were eventually replaced after the removal by the former mayor.

Another question fielded by Moore regarding the nursing center was whether a physical therapist is employed there.

“We have a contracted physical therapy company that’s there at minimum five days a week,” he explained. “They do physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.”

Moore also confirmed that one wing of the facility is reserved for psych patients and kept behind locked doors.

“It’s actually considered a geriatric secured unit,” Moore explained. “Any time that we get a referral for that particular hallway, we look at it even more to make sure that anybody that we’re bringing in is not going to be a threat to the community. We tend to put the people in that hall that need to be in that hall that are not a risk to the community.”

Moore encouraged anyone with further questions regarding Elkhart Oaks to bring them to his attention. Elkhart Oaks is located at 214 Jones Rd. in Elkhart and may be reached via phone at 903-764-2291.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.