Breckenridge Texan

Future of Senior Citizens Center still undecided, pending decision by hospital board

Future of Senior Citizens Center still undecided, pending decision by hospital board
June 23
15:31 2020

The future of the Breckenridge Senior Citizens Center remains undecided after the Stephens Memorial Hospital District Board of Directors tabled the topic at their meeting last week. However, the hospital staff and members of the hospital auxiliary are making plans to relocate the center, along with its services and activities, to the hospital.

The City of Breckenridge will not operate any aspect of the center after June 30. On June 29, the last meal will be delivered by the center, and June 30 will be the last day for the one remaining employee at the center, which will be closed then.

Interim City Manager of Administration Heather Robertson-Caraway said that the center has three regular customers and occasionally two additional customers for the meals that are served at the center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Three or five people does not justify almost a $160,000 to $200,000 budget; it just doesn’t,” she said.

Until the end of May, homebound elderly citizens in Breckenridge could get meals delivered to their homes five days a week. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the Senior Citizens Center prepared the meals and delivered them. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the hospital prepared the meals and the local Meals on Wheels volunteers delivered them.

The current situation with the Senior Citizens Center came about when it was revealed last month that the City of Breckenridge was facing severe budget shortfalls and needed to cut expenses. On May 26, the City held a public meeting to hear from citizens about the Senior Citizens Center, the animal shelter, the City’s swimming pool and the Cemetery office. Click here to read more about that meeting.

At the June 2 City Commission meeting, the Breckenridge City Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with the hospital to turn over the money in the Aging Services Petty Cash Fund to the hospital to help pay for the hospital to deliver the meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That fund includes more than $19,000. However, the hospital district board has not likewise approved the agreement.

On June 5, the City staff delivered its last meal, and all but one senior center employee were laid off.  Since June 8, Stephens Memorial Hospital has been preparing the meals to be delivered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the city employees delivered them. But, the home delivery will be handled solely by the hospital and/or Meals on Wheels after the end of June.

“For now, we have to be (out of the Aging Services business),” Robertson-Caraway said. “Never should it be a profit center, but when you’re losing as much as we’re losing on it, that’s very problematic. We want to see (the senior center) continue, that’s why we went to the hospital.”

City officials don’t mind if the hospital moves the services to the hospital facility, as long as the citizens who want to eat there are still getting meals, she said.

The hospital board met on June 18 and after a lengthy discussion about the costs and procedures involved, the board voted to table the issue.

The hospital district is scheduled to have a special meeting on July 7, and Chris Curtis, Practice Administrator for the hospital, said he plans to be ready to present the additional information the board has requested.

Curtis said he is looking to create the most sustainable model possible that will allow the community to have an affordable senior citizens center. The current plan is to move the center’s operations to the hospital, serving meals from the cafeteria, which is being remodeled, and offering activities in an adjacent room.

“Absorbing the building down there (at the current Senior Citizens Center) would incur utilities, staff…,” Curtis said. “We were already in the process of remodeling the dining room here where people could come in. So, there’s no added cost. We could utilize the space we have. It would be open for Thursday bingo and card games; people could come and go, like an activity or community center type thing.”

The space that the hospital is considering for the senior center is where cardiac rehab and the medical records office used to be. “There’s a doorway between those two rooms now, and they’re both empty,” Curtis said. “They’re both pretty decent size spaces, and I think more than enough to accommodate different activities. Both will have tables and chairs in them. Both will be accessible. We’ll have both of those areas available. There should be plenty of room if different groups want to do different activities.”

Since the remodeled dining room will open to everyone in the community Mondays through Fridays, the senior citizens would be able to eat there five days a week, instead of just the three that are currently offered, Curtis said. The plan is to have a staff member serve the food from steam tables, buffet style. And, Curtis said, he’d like to have a salad bar, as well.

Members of the Stephens Memorial Hospital Auxiliary – aka the Pink Ladies – have volunteered to help deliver meals, as well as organize and lead activities and events. They also will decorate the space.

“They’re really good at type of thing,” Curtis said. “They’re already ordering things and getting things to decorate the space, so it’s going to be a nice, updated, bright space for people to come and participate in activities.”

Additionally, Curtis said, the hospital plans to offer some educational programs, such as fall prevention, staying healthy, chronic disease management, etc.

Curtis said he envisions that, in addition to the senior citizens who come just for the meals and activities, those people who come to the hospital for things like lab work or physical therapy would stay for lunch and socialization.

“If they just want to come up here and sit and drink a cup of coffee, that will be fine. That’s what it’s for,” he said.

One drawback to locating the center inside the hospital is that the hospital is under state regulations due to the COVID-19 situation that limit visitors to one per patient in the hospital. Curtis said he is conducting some research to see if there is some way for the area planned for the senior citizens center to be open to more people, even under the restrictions. The cafeteria and new senior center will be located at one end of the hospital in a place that is away from the regular patient rooms, so that visitors to the center won’t be exposed to sick people.

Until the COVID-19 restrictions are lessened, the in-person activities for the senior center at the hospital will be on-hold.

When the center is up and operational again, after closing next Tuesday, and if the hospital district board agrees to take over the center, assistance from the community will be needed. The two main ways that the community can help is by making donations to help pay for meals for those who can’t afford it and by delivering meals to the home-bound, Curtis said.


Story by Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Chris Curtis (left) discusses ideas and plans for moving the Senior Citizens Center to Stephens Memorial Hospital with SMH District Board President Tom Echols and other members of the board at their June meeting. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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