Woodfin – People entrust senior care facilities with their elderly loved ones. The only thing more important than knowing that the facility staff cares for the loved ones residing there is that they are doing their jobs correctly. An agency within the state government overseeing these facilities and grades them based on their deficiencies.
“Zero deficiency” is a goal that all senior care facilities look to achieve. The term “zero deficiency” means the facility is doing top-level work in everything from administrative paperwork to active care of its patients.
After a recent survey by state inspectors, Emerald Ridge in Woodfin received the coveted “zero deficiency” results. Facility Director Candy Fisher told the Tribune that the last time the facility had a survey was back in 2019. Soon after the 2019 survey, the pandemic hit and surveys were suspended. Now that the pandemic for the most part is over, North Carolina has resumed surveying facilities again.
“State put surveys on the back burner. They were busy doing what they call infection control surveys, making sure everybody was following strict CDC guidelines,” explained Fisher, “So just in the past six months, the Division of Health Services Regulation has upped their game with going back to manual surveys.”
She described, “When you’ve gone essentially two and a half years without being surveyed, a lot of things can fall through the cracks. You just lose sight of survey readiness.” She said when she came back to the center in December of last year, she felt COVID had about run its course and she started focusing on survey readiness.
“Being deficiency-free is the highest honor a facility can obtain,” said Fisher. The state just doesn’t come in for a few hours, she explained, but for four days. The inspectors came in and went over everything from charts to housekeeping to the kitchen to talking to Emerald Ridge’s residents.
Fisher said they were “pleasantly surprised” with the results because they identified some concerns and focused on correcting them.
“We had identified some issues that we’d been having and put a performance improvement plan in place, which helped the surveyors see that we had identified an issue and we’re working on it,” she explained.
Asked how a “zero deficiency” survey helps the public choose a care facility, Fisher said, “The biggest thing it would say to me as a consumer is that everyone here is doing their job the way it’s supposed to be done. My philosophy is, always has been, always will be, if you do everything the right way every day, then survey day is just another day.”
According to Fisher, Emerald Ridge’s survey history has been “outstanding since 2016,” with one deficiency in 2019 and two in 2018. She told the Tribune that sometimes it’s not the number of deficiencies but the scope and severity of the deficiencies. Deficiencies are on a graded scale, from ‘A’ being the least to ‘K’ being the worst.
Fisher says the trick to a good survey is no secret. It is a sheer “team effort.” “The only thing I do [is] provide the tools to the team to review their departments and look for anything that might need working on.” She admits there have been challenges, but also “the residents do [know], we keep them informed so that they can monitor our progress.
Emerald Ridge is technically under new management as the large company, Consulate, which owned Emerald Ridge, underwent reconstruction and broke up into four smaller companies. Emerald Ridge is part of what remains of Consulate, which means that upper management now is a more regional company and more responsive to individual facilities, says Fisher.