A national nursing care facilities company is on its way to raising the bar for senior care in Ottawa.

“We’re going to see a higher quality of care than the community was used to,” said Tracy Bohrer. “We still have a long way to go, but we are making progress.”

Bohrer is the executive director of Rock Creek of Ottawa, located at 1100 W. 15th St., Ottawa. Formerly known as Ottawa Retirement Village, the facilities were acquired by The Ensign Group in November, and since that time the new owners have steadily made improvements to the longtime community care facility.

Staffing changes

The biggest change has been the choice to hire in-house staff in leu of using temporary staffing agencies, Bohrer said.

“We found when we came in about 80% of the nursing staff working in the building was temporary agency staff,” Bohrer said. “We decreased that in December by half, and by February we should be completely out of agency – that means we’ll have our own nurses.”

While the distinction may seem a small one, having in-house staff upgrades the quality of care on a number of levels, Bohrer said.

“It will allow for continuity of care for the residents,” she said. “They will take accountability and ownership, versus temporary agency staff – they are just here for their shift. These staff members are actually becoming part of our family.”

The care facility now boasts its own therapy team and equipment, director and assistant directors of nursing, a lymphedema specialist, a deeper pool of registered nurses, and a new medical director.

“Her name is Dr. Joy Cuezze, and she comes with an extensive geriatric background,” Bohrer said. “She is also a member of the American Medical Directors Association and she also has a wound care position, and there are practitioners that will be working alongside her.”

Bohrer’s team has made increasing registered nurse pay a priority.

“For the nursing team members, we found that their wages were not at market, so we went ahead and made those adjustments,” she said. “We increased nursing wages by an average of $2.50 per hour.”

Future improvements

Along with staffing changes, facilities upgrades are also on the horizon.

“We will be starting a remodel at the end of January and first part of February,” Bohrer reported. “We will do all new flooring in the health center, new handrails, new paint, and then we are doing all new flooring in our residential building.

“As far as the residents specifically, we have purchased new beds and new mattresses. We’ve also purchased new wheelchairs, and we’ve purchased new specially cushions.”

Rock Creek isn’t stopping with those basic upgrades.

“We are eventually hoping to provide daycare for the senior population. We are also looking at potentially remodeling the plaza and bringing in possibly even a secure unit for memory care, which is something that is very much in need in this community,” Bohrer said. “We have a lot of work here to do, and it’s not going to happen overnight – it needs a lot of love, but we definitely have the resources and the team to come in and do what we need to do. I would look to see some significant improvements and changes over the next six months to three years.”