Estes Park nursing home residents get 2-month eviction notice after closure decision

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Traffic drives along Big Thompson Avenue through Estes Park, Colo. on Monday, May 18, 2020.

The remaining 13 residents of Estes Park Health Living Center have until April 9 to find a new place to live before the town’s only skilled nursing home closes for good.   

The Estes Park Health Board of Directors voted Feb. 1 to close the facility after years of what it said was declining revenue exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Feb. 3, the board submitted a closure plan to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which accepted it the same day, clearing the way for the closure.

The board set the targeted closing date this week, although that date could change depending on the pandemic. If COVID-19 cases begin to spike again, transfers could be delayed. 

Estes Park Health Living Center will not cease operations “until all residents are appropriately placed, even if placement activities extend beyond the target closure date.  Resident care and services will continue to be provided, monitored, and supervised until each resident is discharged,” the board said in a letter to the community.

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The closure will burden families who will now have to travel outside the Estes Valley to visit their elderly loved ones in Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Boulder or even north Denver, said Gerald Mayo, a longtime supporter of Estes Park Health Living Center.

His father-in-law and his parents were all nursing home residents over the years, Mayo said. “When my wife’s father was there, we were up there four or five times a day. We couldn’t have done that if we had to go to Loveland,” he said.  

Mayo anticipates some residents will not survive the move and blames the board for putting profit over people. 

Estes Park resident Barbara Eddy Keilty told the board at a recent meeting there was only one facility in Northern Colorado that could match the care and needs of her mother, who has lived at Estes Park Health Living Center for seven years. 

That facility has a two-year waiting list, she said. “I’m not sure she’ll survive the trauma of being moved once,” Eddy Keilty said. “I can’t move her twice.” 

Yet, opponents of the closure appear to be out of options to stop the closure, Mayo said. Requesting a court injunction to forestall the closure is cost prohibitive, he said. Failing that, there’s little else opponents can do.  

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The 15-page resolution to shut down the facility spelled out the financial troubles plaguing the 52-bed Estes Park Health Living Center that now houses 13 residents; efforts to find ways to keep it open; and community efforts that failed to produce viable options.

The board said the decision was needed to ensure the financial well-being of Estes Park Hospital. The health system, partially funded by about $3 million a year generated through a special taxing district, is estimating a 20% drop in revenue through this year — losses exacerbated by COVID-19. 

The number of residents at Estes Park Health Living Center has been declining over the years, and a high percentage of remaining residents are on Medicaid, which generally reimburses about 70% of the cost of providing services, according to the resolution.

Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at patferrier@coloradoan.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.