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Gold standard

by JOSH MCDONALD
Local Editor | November 18, 2022 1:00 AM

KELLOGG — Once again Mountain Valley of Cascadia (MVC) has demonstrated that they are the best of the best, not just in the Silver Valley — but the entire country.

Last month the Kellogg-based, 68-bed post-acute and skilled nursing facility was recognized as a recipient of the 2022 Gold Excellence in Quality award for superior performance in long-term and post-acute care by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) during their recent convention in Nashville, Tenn.

This is the second time the facility has received a Gold Award, which can only be achieved by completing three progressive levels of awards (bronze, silver and gold) — and they were one of just two facilities nationwide to receive the Gold award this year.

Emilee Kulin — MVC’s Chief Executive Officer, discussed how the journey to becoming the literal gold standard in long-term, skilled nursing care has been two decades in the making.

The process requires a written application, along with review of numerous amounts of medical and care data auditing, both off site for months, and on site for a full week — meaning to win such an award requires the dedication and participation of the entire staff.

“It’s important for me to recognize the efforts of our staff here,” Kulin said. “Without our caregivers, dietary, housekeeping, our CNAs, our leadership team, none of these awards would be possible, because these awards are based off of data that is pulled from all of our departments results.”

Kulin further explained that these data points can range from customer satisfaction, such as a formal complaint about food not being warm enough when it is served, all the way to things like pressure ulcer occurrence, falls, urinary tract infections, and other care provisions — any time something is reported it’s a potential knock against the facility’s quality record.

Long-term care facilities and nursing homes tend to only make the news when something horrific has happened, a lot of times these discoveries are made following some sort of complaint by a patient, a family member or a staff member.

As soon as that complaint is received, steps are taken to see how the facility has responded to it.

This usually requires federal or state surveyors to step in and see how these concerns are being managed. This is all part of MVC’s grievance process, where they have processes in place to manage customer satisfaction.

As a federally funded entity, all of this data goes to the federal government, and they are able to track all of these reports and results — which in turn can be the difference maker in whether a facility receives an award, or finds itself in trouble.

Fortunately, MVC tends to exist in the award-winning field more often than not — something Kulin attributes to the facility having longstanding systemic and repeatable practices that have become their hallmark.

“We are all about the people we serve, but it’s the processes that we follow that make us who we are,” Kulin said. “We have set rigorous standards for ourselves, including during this most recent series of awards — which we completed during a global health crisis.”

MVC was essentially a fortress during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the conditions and situation were not ideal, Kulin and her staff never stopped working to make the facility as safe and comfortable as possible for their residents.

“When our doors were locked during the pandemic — how stressful must that have been for the families,” Kulin said. “I often thought it was similar to when my children were in child care, how that would feel to not be able to drop in and check on them at random. It was unbelievably difficult for all of us. We grew as a family, our residents and staff.”

Kulin credits her leadership team for much of the success that MVC has enjoyed over the years, including both full progressions of the AHCA awards, as well as the 2016 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award — the only skilled nursing facility to ever win this particular award.

And while this is the most recent award won by the facility, it is likely far from the last.

“Mountain Valley of Cascadia has demonstrated exceptional performance and care outcomes for their residents and staff,” said Tammy Kelly, AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Board of Overseers Chair. “I applaud their resiliency and dedication to the quality journey and for this outstanding achievement.”

Upon reflection, Kulin just could not contain her gratitude and even a little bit of awe at the success her facility has had — and her plan is to keep going up.

“We are one of only two centers in the nation to receive the AHCA Gold award this year and the only center in Idaho,” Kulin said. “Only 49 providers have met the requirements of this coveted award since its inception, and Mountain Valley is on this list twice. Our center truly strives to be the best in the industry. We have worked hard to navigate all that this health care pandemic has brought our industry and it has not been easy. The staff should be so proud of themselves. The care and dedication they provide to our amazing residents is remarkable. I am so lucky to be part of this team. We truly have something special.”

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