It was a risky move from the beginning.
Plagued by a lengthy history of regulatory problems, a 126-bed nursing facility had its doors finally shuttered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) after too many infractions. Gulfport Rehabilitation Center, in South Pasadena, FL, had become a magnet for all manner of illicit activity. Its reputation in the community was badly damaged.
Signature HealthCARE, based in Louisville, KY, was contacted by one of its lending partners and made aware of the situation. The real estate investment trust that holds the mortgage for the property was concerned whether the center could even be relicensed because of the red tape, upgrades, new Americans With Disabilities Act standards, and the intense amount of capital that would be required.

An Especially Tough Nut

Signature has a track record as a successful “turnaround company,” but Gulfport would be an uphill climb, to say the least. Nonetheless, the company decided to take on the challenge, knowing this facility was a needed community resource.
The center’s new administrator arrived in September 2013. Signature’s regional and construction teams had already devoted months of time, money, and labor to physical upgrades, bringing the facility up to date on safety codes and beyond.
Now Signature management would need to staff the facility—and not necessarily with the first willing applicants, but with people who were committed to delivering compassionate, quality care and keeping Signature’s mission and vision front and center. Much of this success came at the hands of the outstanding Director of Nursing Stephanie Lee, who has been so instrumental in bringing each of the facility’s stakeholders on board.
Hiring the right team—the team now in place—was essential, along with having a strong strategic direction and communicating with staff at all times.
From the get-go, it was important to set the table for a culture of high expectations, accountability, and a sense of urgency. Everyone involved had to see the vision for where they were headed and how they planned to get there.

Identifying What Is Important

Signature’s culture revolves around high integrity and a strong moral sense, combined with a “blue-collar” work ethic. It is vital that newcomers understand and buy into the culture wholesale—things like interfaith spiritual offerings and the company’s Sacred Six service values.
As a company, staff members also embrace continual education as a means of personal and professional growth. Resurrecting Gulfport has been rife with learning moments, both during the orientation phase and on the floor as new opportunities present themselves, with managers giving praise and positive feedback when appropriate.
It is important for the leaders to keep their fingers on the pulse of everything that goes on in the building. This means spending time with not only the nursing staff, but certified nurse assistants, dietary and housekeeping personnel, and anyone else who has the capacity to impact patient care or experience—which is virtually everyone.
Also key to keeping morale high: Staff and residents have fun. They come together for things like a Hawaiian luau, holiday parties, theme days, visits from therapy dogs, and trips to the bowling alley across the street.

Team Goes Into Action

To restore the facility’s reputation, the team started with a grand opening party. Team members utilize tools such as Abaqis for patient care and survey readiness and practice consistent customer service follow-up. They travel hospital to hospital and meet with case managers, home health agencies, skilled nursing centers, and others to network and tell their story—that they are a changed operation at Gulfport.
The Gulfport leaders are on a mission to restore the community’s faith in them and deliver high-quality, patient-centered care, all of which requires that they restore occupancy and remain financially viable. In January 2014, they reopened their doors with the capability to accept a full patient load. This year, they are confident they can achieve their goal of 95 percent occupancy, with a skill mix of 35 percent rehab patients and 65 percent long term care patients.

Achieving Validation

Meanwhile, Gulfport’s most recent Signature HealthCARE Stakeholder Engagement Survey score, from fall 2014, landed at 4.4 out of 5. This score puts its team in the highest category, meaning its staff overall are actively engaged, are strongly aligned with the company’s goals and objectives, and perform at “consistently high levels.”
And most recently, in December 2014, Signature learned that Gulfport now has a Five-Star Rating from CMS.
Gulfport Administrator Sean O’Malley says, “I could not be prouder of this team for bringing this vision to fruition. Getting the building to this point has been a high-pressure undertaking that has demanded long hours and hard work by many. It has been emotional and stressful, and one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire career.”
Sean O’Malley is administrator and chief executive officer of Gulfport Rehabilitation Center in South Pasadena, FL.