Pawhuska Nursing Home is closing its doors after more than 60 years due to state budget cuts. The shuttering of the Pawhuska, Oklahoma-based nursing home leaves 20 residents looking for a new place to live. The closing of the Pawhuska Nursing Home, which is also one of the largest employers in the small town of roughly 3,500, also means 30 employees will be out of work. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma House of Representatives recently announced substantial raises for several staff members.
Many of Oklahoma’s nursing homes are heavily dependent on Medicaid funding, but have lost more than $93.0 million in state and federal appropriations since 2010.
Justing McGrew, owner of Pawhuska Nursing Home, said they are helping residents find other places to live, but it is a challenge.
“These are elderly, often very sick and frail men and women,” McGrew said. “It is extremely difficult for them to be displaced from their home and their place of care. We are disappointed and saddened that we were not able to get the resources we need to keep the doors open here in Pawhuska.”
The closure of the Pawhuska Nursing Home could be just the beginning, too. According to the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers (OAHCP), roughly one-third of the state’s nursing homes could close.
“Our current level of funding is one of the lowest in the nation,” said Nico Gomez, CEO of the OAHCP. “If we want to provide for our seniors and allow them to live in dignity and comfort, the current budget situation is unsustainable. We have got to get these facilities more resources or we will see more closures and more displacement of vulnerable and frail Oklahomans. I hope our lawmakers are paying attention and discussing solutions. Our senior citizens need to know that help is on the way.”
But help may not be on the way. Oklahoma is knee-deep in a budgetary crisis. Over the last number of years, tax cuts have taken a huge bite out of the state’s revenues. In addition to about $1.0 billion in annual income tax cuts, Oklahoma legislators gave annual tax breaks to the oil and gas industry of between $300.0 million and $500.0 million in 2014.
On top of that, in 2017, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that fees on tobacco were unconstitutional, reducing around an expected $200.0 million from the state’s budget.
Creating new revenue is difficult in Oklahoma; raising taxes requires three-quarters majority at the Capitol or a vote of the people.
Despite a $100.0-million budget shortfall, funding cuts, and layoffs, the Oklahoma House of Representatives is throwing gas on the fire, having recently announced substantial raises for several staff members.
Unfortunately, it appears as though a state government in the midst of a budgetary crisis, and nursing homes are not concerned. They should be.
“Organization: Oklahoma nursing home closing due to lack of funding,” KFOR, January 26, 2018.
“Oklahoma’s Fiscal Crisis: How We Got Here,” News 9, January 11, 2018.
“Oklahoma House gives some staff pay raises amid budget crisis,” OKCFOX, January 18, 2018.