An unpleasant episode for three Wallowa Valley Senior Living residents and their families appears to have reached a less troubling end as WVSL has suddenly backed off from requiring the residents to find new digs. Predictably, 30-day notices WVSL tendered the three — all of whom had moved over to the spanking new tax-funded facility from the worn-out former hospital annex across town where nursing care was offered — sparked public outcry.

Although Senior Living has now been in business two years, it continues to encounter some mistrust from a public that never bought in fully to the idea that nursing care can no longer be part of the program here. So far, the episode that just played out only serves to confirm critics’ most negative views, regardless of whether these were originally well-founded. And perhaps because the controversy involves questions about care levels afforded (or not afforded) to known (though not publicly identified) individuals, the Wallowa County Health Care District is appearing a mite tentative in its public response to the issues raised. The district allotted approximately 20 minutes to the matter at its June 22 board meeting – enough time for affected family members to air their grievances in some detail, at times reading from prepared statements — but it was clear that little of substance would be immediately forthcoming from district officials themselves.

It may be that liability worries keep officials from speaking candidly to the public, but that’s unfortunate for all of us, because a few key questions just won’t go away.

For instance: What was the deciding factor in rescinding the 30-day notices? Did state or local officials determine the facility indeed bore a kind of “grandfathering” obligation to these three residents because they had moved from the nursing home? Or were individual assessments of these residents’ respective levels of needed care each in serious error?

And, most important: What has the district learned, and what steps are being taken to ensure that residents won’t be wrongly notified in the future?

Sorry, health care district, but we do need to know. –RCR

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