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Elder-care facility in West Toledo gets $3M in upgrades

Family works to improve ratings at residence

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    John Stone stands in one of the renovated rooms. The door leads to a patio area in the center of the facility. The facility was built in the 1960s and was set up for 230 residents in dual-occupancy rooms. The facility now has 53 private rooms.

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    John Stone and family bought the West Toledo Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center on Lewis Avenue in 2013.

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A Toledo man whose family has long been in the elder-care sector has spent nearly $3 million on upgrades and renovations at a West Toledo skilled-care facility that he said had been neglected for a number of years and had nearly fallen into a state of disrepair.

John Stone paid $850,000 in 2013 to buy what was then West Toledo Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center out of bankruptcy protection. The facility, at 4546 Lewis Ave., had struggled with financial issues stretching back all the way to the early 1990s.

“This place was a real mess when we found it,” Mr. Stone said. “The bank was running it, and I guess they were about six months away from just walking away.”

Beyond a good cleaning, one of most pressing needs was new roof and dry-sprinkler system, a project that came in at about $2 million on its own. Mr. Stone, who operates the site with his wife, Jodie, said they’ve also added new furniture and equipment, and addressed general maintenance that had been deferred while the property was in receivership. The work was funded in part by a $100,000 economic development loan from the city.

The Stones have renamed the facility Merit House.

In spite of building issues it had, Mr. Stone said, the prior operators had done reasonably well with patient care.

“What we’ve tried to do is expand on that,” he said. “The way we do that is just being consistent with staffing, adding to the staff, giving folks the things they need to work with.”

Built in the mid 1960s, the facility was set up for 250 residents with dual-occupancy rooms. Today the facility has 53 private rooms, 50 of which are occupied. 

Work is under way to add 51 assisted-living units.

The owners expect most of skilled-care residents to be paid through Medicaid or Medicare, though Mr. Stone said they do anticipate some self-pay residents.

Merit House’s most recent rating from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is one out of five stars, a rating that the agency classifies as well below average. Mr. Stone said he hopes to see the rating improve in the next assessment, which he said is under way now.

Based on Medicare’s individual metrics, Merit House appears to rank mostly in line with its peers. 

For example, the agency said 65 percent of Merit House’s short-stay residents made improvements in function, compared to the Ohio average of 62 percent.

One of the biggest issues noted in Medicare & Medicaid Services report was a higher percentage of patients reporting moderate to severe pain. 

For long-term patients, 15 percent self-reported that, versus an Ohio average of 5 percent. For short-term patients, the figure was 44 percent versus a state average of 18 percent.

Mr. Stone said those higher figures are in part because of the relatively small size of his facility — fewer patients mean each person reporting that carries more weight relatively to the whole. Even so, staff is working to address the issues, he said.

“You come to work, you do to best you can, and you try to move those metrics,” Mr. Stone said.

The Stone family has a history of nursing-home ownership in the area. Mr. Stone’s father John H. “Jack” Stone built Spring Meadows Extended Care Facility in 1985 and was its administrator for more than 20 years. In 2006, Mr. Stone and his wife purchased the then-closed Traditions Care and Rehabilitation Center and got it back up and running before selling it to Laurel Health Care Co., which now operates it as the Laurels of Toledo.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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