Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a factual error.
A new nursing home could be built in Weatherford if the state of Texas approves the need for one.
Recently, Jeff Rhodes, president of The Rhoman Group, presented a case for a new nursing home to the Parker County Commissioners Court and Weatherford City Council. He argued that nursing homes in the city are running at 80 percent capacity for Medicaid beds, and that by 2023 those homes will be completely filled, forcing people to go to Fort Worth or somewhere else.
“The need is based upon current occupancy trends, a growing population, especially among the 65-plus demographic, the age of some of the existing nursing homes, and a couple of buildings in the community have outright quality of care concerns,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said the plan is for the nursing home to be a long-term skilled nursing center with physical and occupational therapy, as well as providing medical care for local residents. If approved by the state, he said the facility could be up and running in about a year.
He said the total cost will for the 120-bed (100 Medicaid-certified beds) facility will be around $9-$10 million and would provide as many as 100 full-time jobs for the area. Startup costs will be around $2 million, he said.
The facility would include occupational and physical therapy areas, dining hall, and aesthetically, home-like sitting areas for comfort of residents and visitors. The building would be 48,000-52,000 square feet and will need approximately seven acres of land.
Rhodes stressed that the facility would cost taxpayers nothing, and once operating could bring in around $23 million annually to the economy.
“Because this will be a newly constructed, Medicaid-certified facility, the provider will undergo more stringent quality-of-care guidelines than existing local providers,” Rhodes said.
Still, the state has the final say on whether a new facility will come to Weatherford.
Not everyone thinks a new facility is a good idea, however.
Andrew Bruenderman, administrator at Weatherford Health Care Center, was among a group representing the facilities already in existence in and around Weatherford, which numbers up to 10, including assisted living. He said there is simply not enough personnel to support an additional nursing home.
“There’s only so many nurses and workers to go around,” he said. “When you add another player to the area, you have to bring folks in from the outside, and when that happens in healthcare, it’s a life-or-death situation. If a nurse isn’t as familiar with a patient as someone who treats them every day, that is not a good thing.
“If we had the labor pool, then yes, I’d say add another nursing home.”
Bruenderman also had a problem with Rhodes’ calculations.
“They’re also saying all the ones in existence are at 80 percent capacity, but that’s not the case,” he said, adding that Weatherford Health Care Center is only at 69 percent capacity and is certified for 122 beds.
No one from the city would comment, but a couple of Parker County Commissioners said they have no problem if a new facility is built as long as the need can be proven. Precinct 4 Commissioner George Conley noted a new 150-180-bed facility set to begin construction in late summer in nearby Springtown is going to saturate the county even more.
“We need one in the north part of Parker County. People don’t want to go to Weatherford or Azle, so this will be a great addition, but it’s going to be interesting to see what they decide in Weatherford,” Conley said. “According to the four guys who came to our court, they don’t need one, but of course the guy who wants to build one says they do, so we’ll see. Ultimately, the state’s got to agree to it, or none of it matters.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden said the proposed project is really more the city’s business than the commissioners’.
“They simply came to us asking for an approval letter. My thinking is this is a free enterprise situation, and we should not be deciding whether it should be built,” he said. “It’s located in the city. I think free enterprise should ultimately decide this. If they need one, they should get one. If not, then they probably won’t.”