BY GLENN PUIT gpuitrecord-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BEULAH — The former director of Benzie County’s publicly run nursing home disputed statements she resigned, saying she was instead fired. Now Mary Beaudry wonders whether she’s being scapegoated for the medical facility’s extensive financial problems.
Beaudry was on the job for less than two months when she was dismissed last week, just days before Benzie officials announced the Maples owes the county $484,000 in unpaid loans. Beaudry described management of the Maples as “incredibly dysfunctional,” and said the facility is “robbing Peter to pay Paul” to make payroll.
“I inherited a nightmare -- an abysmal nightmare,” Beaudry said.
Beaudry also disputed a written memo from Ken Masters, chairman of the Benzie County Department of Human Services, that stated Beaudry resigned. Beaudry said the Maples' former director and consultant, Judy Martin, told department heads at the facility on May 3 that Beaudry was let go, prompting Beaudry to pack up her belongings and leave the building in Frankfort.
“They didn’t even tell me to get out,” Beaudry said. “It was the most mismanaged, disgusting thing I’ve ever been through.”
The Maples’ outstanding debt was of great concern Tuesday to Benzie County commissioners, given repeated questions about the facility’s ability to repay the county and make payroll for its roughly 110 employees. County Treasurer Michelle Thompson said the county will collect a $120,000 payment after a special county board meeting on May 16 to address the financial crisis so the Maples can make its next payroll.
The county is scheduled to break ground in June on a new, $10 million facility on Maples Avenue in Frankfort, with the plan to keep nursing home services under county's auspices. A .365 millage for the Maples that expires in 2016 brings in about $350,000 a year for operational costs. A .635 building millage brings in about $700,000 annually to pay for construction costs.
A clearly frustrated Board of Commissioners warned they plan to deny the Maples additional loans until nursing home leaders come to the board with a financial plan that details a cure for the facility's money problems. The county regularly loaned the Maples money from its delinquent tax revolving fund.
“I’m not for loaning any more money,” said Commissioner Tom Kelley. “This payroll is not necessarily our burden.”
Commissioner Vance Bates agreed.
“You’ve gotten the last bit of money from us … until you come to us with a plan on how you are going to pay us back,” Bates said.
But commissioners also voiced a commitment to finding a way to keep the Maples viable. The nursing home houses more than 50 people, many of whom can't afford private nursing home facilities.
Beaudry, when asked if she thought the Maples would be able to repay the county, said "I don’t know. It's huge. It's half-a-million."
Beaudry said the facility laid off a handful of people in November, but she was insistent that cutbacks not impact rank and file employees.
"I offered my employees the opportunity to take time off without pay," she said.
Beaudry blamed financial problems on decreases in Medicare and Medicaid payments, a fluctuating patient count, and the decision to split the millage to help fund the new facility, leaving the Maples with no financial cushion.
Commissioner Roger Griner previously pushed an idea to privatize the Maples by turning over management to Paul Oliver Hospital. The proposal died because of public opposition.
"We are not trying to close the facility ... (but) there was such an uproar from the public," Griner said. "They didn't want to hear it.
"He who sows shall reap," Griner said.