Callaway fights to keep nursing home open

CALLAWAY -- When the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society announced last September it wanted to close Callaway’s Rest Home, and that it had every intention of doing so, little did they know there would be a bull dog standing in the doorway.Good Sam’s facility in Gibbon is closing in March, along with 35 jobs in that community. Callaway’s 36 jobs, due to some hard work from it’s citizenry, are proudly still intact.The Callaway facility is in the process of being turned over to a newly formed organization, the Callaway Good Life Center, as soon as its 501c3 status becomes official. The community will own its own rest home, thanks to the foresight of the facilities original founders over 50 years ago. Good Sam starts process to close Callaway facility.It started last September when Ron Jorgenson received a call to ‘get home right now’ the regional and interim managers of Good Sam needed to talk to him.The organization wanted to close the Callaway facility and sell off the property. They needed to locate the original trust agreement to do so, and they needed it signed. They went to the Callaway Town Board to have them sign. Jorgenson had the original document in his safe. He was the only living original signer and he had no intention of signing it over now. He was the bulldog standing in the doorway. He knew all too well what would happen once that document was signed.The original trust was drawn up in 1963. It stated that if Good Sam ever decided to pull out of Callaway, the rest home was to revert back to a non-profit corporation in Callaway. “I don’t deserve any credit,” said Jorgenson, “I’m just not going to let it (the rest home) close.”Jorgenson was afraid if he signed the document over, Good Sam would sell off the property piecemeal, and Callaway would be left with nothing.The original rest home was built and paid for by Lutheran Good Samaritan Society after Robert Cook and Ron Jorgenson sold the bonds, and the project was initially launched because Curtis Benger and Leland Jorgenson (Ron’s father), among others, were interested in having this type of facility in Callaway. The building was started in 1961. Good Sam ran the facility for the next 50+ years. Over the course of time, they had to build on because 36 beds was not enough. They also put in an Alzheimer’s unit on the west side. It became a 43 bed Medicare-certified facility. “This isn’t a Callaway project,” said Jorgenson, “It is a Custer County project. We have people, patients, from all over the county. It was built to house the elderly and to provide jobs,” he said. Thirty-six jobs is a big number, he emphasized. It would be devastating to Callaway to lose those jobs. “It would be like shutting down part of BD,” he said. A key part of the negations with Good Sam today has been over the Medicaid, Medicare certified beds. “This is an important commodity you can’t buy,” he said. They originally wanted to leave 25 beds, but through negotiations, Good Sam will leave 35 of the 43 Medicare beds it is currently licensed for. This was a hard negotiation. You have to earn these beds through the years.” They are down to the final parts of the conversation, deciding what equipment will go and what will stay.“In the end, when the facility is transferred, there had still better be all of the equipment we need to care for the patients,” said Jorgenson.The end is getting closer. The Callaway Good Life Center Board (members Mary Ross, Marvin Neth, Marcia Keeney, Randy Kimball and Jorgenson) have contracted with a company to manage the facility. Rural Health Development manages rest homes in smaller communities in Nebraska as well as a few larger ones in the midwest and the board likes what they see. “Rural Health Development and Ron Ross have a complete staff to assist with the current jobs at the rest home which will remain intact.”“Once Ron Ross (of Rural health Development) takes over, I think the people will be pleased,” Jorgenson said. “They are interested in patient care. I feel that with the new addition on the hospital, the drug store, Grand Generations Manor, and the rest home, they all complement each other … we are all concerned about health care out in our area.”‘