Senior living CEO gives himself a pink slip to try to push community into the black

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Christopher Oswald (Blue Ridge Village)
Christopher Oswald (Blue Ridge Village)

Chris Oswald is ending his 18-year stint at Blue Ridge Village in Martinsville, VA, on Friday, having decided to fire himself as CEO in an effort to help his organization survive.

Blue Ridge Manor, the 60-bed assisted living component of Blue Ridge Village, is all private pay and hasn't been a major source of concern relative to the nursing home component, April Patrick of Blue Ridge Village told McKnight's. Nevertheless, last month the assisted living facility announced the waiving of its $1,000 move-in fee through Aug. 1 along with a new pay scale for personal care assistants, nurse aides, certified nursing assistants and medical technicians in an effort to attract residents and staff.

The driving force behind Oswald's departure, he told the Martinsville Bulletin, are Medicare changes that have affected the 300-bed Blue Ridge Rehab Center where Patrick is administrator. Cuts, he said, have led to a drop in admissions and a $3 million annual revenue loss. And Blue Ridge recently lost a Medicare Advantage contract because of a low star rating that Patrick said is partly due to the community's memory care unit.

“You're going to see a dramatic shift away from long-term care and into either the home through home health or you're going to see a shift into more privately funded care models like assisted living,” Oswald told the local media outlet. “In five years, to be honest with you, … you will not recognize the nursing industry for what it is now, because it will be dramatically changed.”

Oswald last week informed his staff that he was leaving. The community also is renegotiating terms with vendors and has reduced non-care related positions by approximately 12, efforts that officials hope will save more than $400,000. A planned behavioral/mental health wing and other options could draw residents and revenue, Oswald said.

The CEO said he isn't sure what his next step will be. Patrick and her counterpart at Blue Ridge Manor will remain and assume some of Oswald's responsibilities.

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