Borrowing from a phrase made famous by the late House Speaker Thomas ‘Tip’ O’Neill, L. Christine Bassett said that all health care delivery is — or should be — local.
She was referring to the proliferation of national, mostly publicly held companies that manage dozens, if not hundreds, of nursing homes and other health care providers across the country. Bassett, president of Wakefield, Mass.-based Radius Management, said her company, by focusing on New England and, specifically, Massachusetts, can provide more hands-on management that better serves both the health care provider and its clients.
This hands-on approach helps explain the company’s rapid growth and success since it was created in 1999, said Bassett. “You can’t manage health care facilities with a cookie-cutter approach,” she explained, again referring to the national giants. “Each facility needs a level of individuality, and that’s what we try to maintain. While we manage a facility, we don’t dictate how it’s run. We let that uniqueness come through.”
Radius, which recently acquired Ring Healthcare Center East in Springfield in a joint venture with G&L Realty, now owns or manages 10 health care facilities in New England, including four nursing homes in Western Mass.
The company’s stable of facilities is growing quickly, Bassett said, but it remains regionally focused, with the intent of keeping those health care services local. Indeed, Radius will continue to look for opportunities to broaden its portfolio — and there are many such opportunities in these challenging times for the industry — but in doing so it won’t expand its reach beyond its capabilities.
Circle of Influence
Radius was created in 1999 as an offshoot of a consulting company started by Bassett and partner Charles Rouse. That venture, called Rouse & Associates, had gained a solid reputation for providing management services to non-profit agencies, said Bassett, adding that the company identified a growing need for services within elder care facilities and other types of providers.
”It became clear to us that there was an evolving need for a locally based nursing home management company,” she said, noting that the company’s first assignment was in the Springfield area, with three nursing homes: Chestnut Hill Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in East Longmeadow, Mary Lyon Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Hampden, and Riverdale Gardens Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in West Springfield, which it was hired to manage.
In addition, the company owns three nursing homes in the Worcester area and also manages a specialty pediatric nursing home owned by Children’s Hospital in Boston and a 180-unit senior housing continuing care community in the Boston area.
Ring Healthcare Center East, a 120-bed skilled nursing facility, was the last remaining piece of the Ring Healthcare Center Network, operated by the family of Morrill Stone Ring, which was comprised of several nursing homes in the region.
As a regional facility, Radius stands apart from both the small, often family – owned nursing home operations with one or a few facilities — which Ring was — and the national companies with much larger portfolios, said Bassett. And this model provides a number of benefits for the providers and the people they serve, she explained.
For starters, Radius, with its contacts and its resources, can attract more experienced workers, especially nurses, to work within its network, she said. “For example, we have a number of top- notch clinical nurses who provide consulting services to the facilities that we own and manage,” she said. “These people are usually directors of nursing who want to go on to the next step. They want to share all the things that they did which were good and positive in their own facilities with other facilities. We’ve been fortunate to attract these kinds of people.”
There are advantages for specific facilities as well, said Bassett. “They can call on many experts that we can provide, meaning that they don’t have to be all things to all people on a facility level,” she explained. “For example, a director of nursing can call upon our clinical specialist to work his or her way through issues. Our administrators can call upon seasoned, experienced operational people or reimbursement or regulatory experts … we have a lot of resources we can put in people’s hands.”
Asked to identify the keys to the company’s success, Bassett said the venture is small enough, and focused enough, to devote its full energies to health care, not building and maintaining a management infrastructure.
“These larger companies build what I call ‘corporate superstructures,’” she explained. “We feel the emphasis should not be on the management corporation, but on the facilities themselves.”
Bassett described the Ring facility as one that “fit the profile” for Radius. By that, she meant that the facility was well- run, in good condition, and had a solid staff and relatively low staff turnover rates. Such facilities are becoming increasingly difficult to find at a time when many homes are struggling financially due to inadequate reimbursement rates and coping with a deepening shortage of nurses.
Indeed, many of the facilities the company takes on, including the three other nursing homes in this area, are what Bassett calls “turnaround projects.”
At those sites, the company provided fiscal and management assistance that enabled the facilities to increase occupancy rates, ease staff turnover, and ultimately reduce dependency on the use of staffing agencies for personnel.
For the future, Radius is looking to expand its portfolio, Bassett said, but, more importantly, to undertake smart growth.
“We’re not interested in fire sales,” she said of many troubled facilities that are coming onto the market as owners try to exit the industry. “However, if we think we can turn a facility around, we’ll certainly take a look at it.”
Above all else, the company will remain a regional entity, she told The Healthcare News.
“I don’t want Radius to become larger than our capacity to actually get to the facilities that we own or manage,” she explained. “We’re not interested in moving outside New England.”
By remaining regional, the company is helping to ensure that health care is, indeed, local.