The Signature HealthCARE facility at 1529 W. Lancaster St. in Bluffton will close by Dec. 31, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice its parent company sent to Bluffton Mayor John Whicker Monday morning.

The long-term care facility is owned by Jackson County Schneck Memorial Hospital Inc., which is based in Seymour.

Two notices were sent. The first one fulfills the state mandate for notice of closure of the care provider and was sent to Whicker, the Indiana Department of Health’s Long Term Care Provider Services, the Indiana state long term care ombudsmen, and the state’s Division of Aging’s Adult Protective Services. It is a notice of voluntary closure.

The second document is 59 pages long and is titled “Voluntary Nursing Facility 60-day Closure Plan.”

The documents detail plans for the transfer of residents from Signature into other facilities, complete with timelines. The plan, according to the notice provided to Whicker, lists “the stops for SHC Bluffton’s orderly closure of the facility, including the safe transfer and relocation of all residents.” The notice says that no new residents would be admitted after the date of the notice, which was Monday, Nov. 2.

Whicker expressed his concern about the closure of Signature Monday evening.

“I’m concerned about the staff, residents, and the families,” Whicker said, particularly as long term care facilities have struggled to keep their residents healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Will other facilities be able to accept the residents? Will the other facilities have the staff?

“There are a lot of concerns,” Whicker continued. “We’re in unparalleled times here.”

The second document goes into detail as to how residents will be prepared for leaving Signature’s facility and moved to another location. Jared Houck, the regional vice president for operations for Signature HealthCARE — Mid-Atlantic, who is based in Louisville, will be the primary point of contact for those involved in the closure process. Tomi Cobb, the current administrator of the Bluffton facility, will be directly involved with Houck in implementing the closure plan and will also serve as the facility’s placement worker.

The document also says that nursing facility staff “will need to be reassured of the operator’s intention to continue wages and benefits and to assist in job placement resources.”

“The full complement of nursing facility staff will be needed to complete the relocation process so assuring staff members of their continuing importance in serving residence is a key message to convey,” the plan says.
© 2021 Bluffton News-Banner