A construction worker polishes a railing at Bethany at Silver Lake on Tuesday in Everett. Bethany of the Northwest, a not-for-profit, is finishing a building project that will add skilled nursing and rehab care with up to 28 new beds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

A construction worker polishes a railing at Bethany at Silver Lake on Tuesday in Everett. Bethany of the Northwest, a not-for-profit, is finishing a building project that will add skilled nursing and rehab care with up to 28 new beds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Defying the norm, Bethany adds wings for skilled nursing

The need is great at a time when many care facilities are closing due to low reimbursement rates.

EVERETT — At a time when some skilled nursing facilities in the region are closing, Bethany of the Northwest is expanding. Two new wings are nearly complete at its Silver Lake location, and will soon be available to serve 28 rehabilitation patients.

Joe Scrivens, CEO of Bethany of the Northwest, said the new units will be occupied by patients who otherwise would have been cared for on a floor of Bethany at Pacific. There, the not-for-profit has had rehab services occupying several floors of what was once Providence Hospital at 916 Pacific Ave. in Everett.

The two new wings, each with 14 beds, are expected to be ready by August, Scrivens said. He and Brandon Matrone, Bethany at Silver Lake administrator, offered a walk-through view of the addition Tuesday. The 28 new beds at 2235 Lake Heights Dr. will include 20 in private rooms.

Spacious dining areas, day rooms, fireplaces and natural light are included in the attractive design.

“We are definitely going against the grain of our industry,” said Scrivens, adding that while some companies are closing facilities “we are trying to grow.”

The addition, costing about $7 million and built by Charter Construction, will largely house people coming directly from a hospital. Short-term stays, for recovery after surgery or other conditions such as a strokes, are typically five to 15 days.

Scrivens said skilled nursing companies, particularly nonprofits, are at risk of closure due to low Medicaid reimbursement rates, as well as increasing regulations. “Our industry protects and cares for a very vulnerable part of our population, our elderly,” he said. “Skilled nursing companies are being squeezed out of existence.”

In June, Scrivens said, Crista Rehab and Skilled Care in Shoreline announced plans to shut down, adding to a list of other recent closures around the region. Among them were several other nonprofit facilities in Seattle, including Keiro Northwest Rehabilitation & Care Center and Paramount Rehabilitation and Nursing in the city’s Central District.

In Snohomish, the Delta Rehabilitation Center, which specialized in care for brain injury patients, announced plans to close earlier this year. Delta is now closed, said Robin Dale, CEO of the Washington Health Care Association that represents more than 100 skilled nursing facilities around the state.

Dale said Wednesday he’d talked with Delta owner Chris Walsh, and that the former patients — 104 at the time the closure was announced — were placed in adult family homes.

Shoreline has also lost about 100 skilled nursing beds with the closure this year of The Oaks at Forest Bay, Dale said.

“More are on the way if something isn’t done. It’s definitely Medicaid reimbursement — rate versus cost,” Dale said. Washington, he said, has one of the worst reimbursement rates in the country, considering the cost of living and minimum wage here.

“We’re $38 to $39 short, per patient per day,” he said. “The state has neglected Medicaid rates for a very long time.” In most skilled nursing facilities, he said, 70 percent of patients are on Medicaid.

When non-essential surgeries were halted due to the coronavirus, that further cut budgets at skilled nursing facilities. “Business is down 10 to 15 percent,” Dale said.

Bethany, with its long history in Everett, is determined to continue caring for those most in need.

Originally Bethania College, “Bethany Home for the Aged” was established in 1901 by a Lutheran group aiming to provide a Christian “Old People’s Home” in the Everett area, according to the organization’s website. In three Everett locations, Bethany provides more than 200 beds for skilled and sub-acute nursing, and 54 apartments for assisted living.

Without the new wings at Bethany at Silver Lake, the facility built in 1991 has 120 beds. Bethany will still use two floors at the former Providence Hospital on Everett’s Pacific Avenue. That location also houses Everett Transitional Care Services, a skilled nursing facility partnership serving patients who may be hard to place due to a lack of Medicaid, Medicare or a guardian.

Bethany of the Northwest received a $2 million-$5 million loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which the organization reported will retain more than 400 jobs. Information released this week lists companies that received more than $150,000. Seventy-five percent of the loan must go toward employee payrolls in order for it to be forgiven. The rest may go toward rent, health care or other employee benefits and utilities.

Building crews at Bethany at Silver Lake worked on finishing touches Tuesday, while patients in the existing building were cared for in their rooms. We were allowed to see the new units only after donning new paper masks and having temperatures taken. Scrivens said Bethany’s Silver Lake and Silver Crest facilities have had no diagnosed COVID-19 cases, while “a small number” were diagnosed at Bethany at Pacific.

The new units will provide “a continuum of care,” Scrivens said, making more room for rehab patients in the partnership program and freeing up hospital space.

Surviving as a not-for-profit requires adapting to change, said Scrivens, adding “it is a battle.”

Dale said it’s unusual in these times to see any new care facility.

“I just salute them,” Dale said. “We want new nursing homes built.”

Herald writer Joseph Thompson contributed to this story.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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