By the end of 2024, the V.I. Department of Human Services hopes to have completed the reconstruction of Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged and built an entirely new facility replacing the Queen Louise Home for the Aged, Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said during Wednesday’s Disaster Recovery and Infrastructure Committee hearing.
Once completed, each district will boast a 60-bed skilled nursing facility with a long-term care nursing home and enable Human Services to operate two state-of-the-art nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, Causey-Gomez said.
“They will both meet the criteria of a Qualified Skilled Nursing Facility for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The two planned skilled nursing facilities will for the first time enable the Government of the Virgin Islands to be able to claim Medicare and Medicaid federal reimbursements for these services,” Causey-Gomez said.
Committee members indicated they saw this ability as very important. Currently, the U.S. Virgin Islands grapples with many issues surrounding Medicaid funding, including a history of worse local matching rates than states and caps on total funding that do not apply to states.
However, the prospect of this new ability to access federal reimbursements was outweighed by the conditions seniors currently face in the existing, hurricane-ravaged facilities.
“The Queen Louise Home for the Aged on St. Thomas, I could not believe when I walked in
there what that place looked like. It reminded me of a pig farm that I visited at some point. There is no way that I wanted to see my parents or grandparents in that place,” Sen. Kenneth Gittens said. “It is time for that place to be totally shut down. Nobody should be in there.”
Gittens grilled Human Services officials about the condition of St. Croix’s Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged as well, challenging whether there was really a concrete plan in place. He asked why the agency’s plans were for 60-bed facilities when the demand for the beds already exceeds that.
But Causey-Gomez said there is a plan, and within her testimony she provides a detailed timeline towards completion of both facilities. (This timeline is included at the bottom of this article.)
“We want to make sure it is done correctly because of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services certification aspect of it, so we can go ahead and get that federal reimbursement, which is what we don’t have right now,” Causey-Gomez said.
The commissioner said she too wanted 80- to 100-bed facilities.
“I said ‘you build it and they will come,’” but still the plans were approved for only 60 beds.
“We can always expand later, but I think 60 is a good starting point for us for a couple of reasons. One is to ensure that we do it correctly under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines so if we start a little bit smaller we can make sure our quality of care is there,” Causey-Gomez said. She added another positive reason to keep the facility smaller was to ensure the department could adequately staff each location.
Should all go according to the department’s timeline, the newly named Herbert Grigg Skilled Nursing Facility and Queen Louise Skilled Nursing Facility will be finished in three years, leaving seniors with little option but to wait.
Sens. Janelle Sarauw, Marvin Blyden, Samuel Carrion, Franklin Johnson, Carla Joseph, and Genevieve Whitaker were present for the hearing. Sen. Kurt Vialet was excused. Additional non-committee members were also present.
Projected Herbert Grigg Skilled Nursing Facility Timeline:
Project Community Development Block Grant (Disaster Recovery) Sub-Recipient Agreement between Human Services and the V.I. Housing Finance Authority executed by 6/30/21.
Solicitation, selection and contract executed for design firm by 9/30/21.
Initial design, engineering and environmental review completed by 6/30/2022.
Solicitation, selection and contract execution for general contractor by 9/30/2022.
Construction completed by third quarter 2024.
Projected Queen Louise Skilled Nursing Facility Timeline:
Project Sub-Recipient Agreement between Human Services and the V.I. Housing Finance Authority executed by 9/30/2021.
Solicitation, selection and contract executed for design firm by 12/30/2021.
Initial design, engineering and environmental review completed by fourth quarter of 2022.
Solicitation, selection and contract execution for general contractor by end of first quarter 2023.
Construction completed by fourth quarter 2024.