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Fern Terrace Personal Care Home in Murray Set to Close After 49 Years

 The exterior of Fern Terrace in Murray.
Davco Homes
The exterior of Fern Terrace in Murray.

Fern Terrace, a personal care home for the elderly in Murray, is set to close Nov. 19 after 49 years in operation due to staffing shortages.

Rob Simpson is the owner of Davco Homes, which manages six personal care homes in western Kentucky, including Fern Terrace in Murray. He said the personal care home industry at large has been adversely affected by the national labor shortage, and he chose to shut down the Murray home to avoid reaching the point at which he could not hire and retain enough employees to adequately care for the residents.

“Our industry has been hit the hardest,” Simpson said. “Unfortunately, in personal care and nursing homes, we can’t close our doors. We have to be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We were afraid that the staff was getting worn too thin.”

Personal care homes nationwide have had to raise wages to attract employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Home healthcare aids have also been in short supply. Some experts say this shortage of workers across a variety of industries may not be remedied in its entirety for years to come.

Simpson said the shortage of personal care workers may in many ways tie back to the COVID-19 pandemic, from the increased availability of unemployment insurance to the new careers many people found while displaced from their usual work.

“I think that COVID has changed the world almost in every scenario, and unfortunately, our business model is older,” Simpson said. “If you look around the rest of the country, they’re going into smaller units and more specialized care. The traditional personal care model with hundred-bed facilities is kind of a dying breed.”

Davco is working to reassign 54 residents and 13 employees to other personal care homes, primarily the Fern Terrace locations in Mayfield — which is home to younger residents overall than those in Murray — and Owensboro — which is farther from Murray. Because there are not enough available rooms within the Davco network for every Murray resident, Simpson said, many are choosing to move elsewhere.

The closure of Fern Terrace in Murray may most impact residents without a retirement plan and those with severe mental illnesses. Simpson said he does not yet know how Kentucky will accommodate those types of residents if the need for personal care homes becomes extreme, though he said the private-pay industry is expanding.

“When we told the staff yesterday, they were crying,” Simpson said. “They were like, ‘There is no other place that takes care of these people.’ We take care of the blue-collar elderly there. Murray has a mix of some private-pay residents, but the majority of the residents there are all straight social security.

As for the employees, Simpson said all have been offered positions in Mayfield, but the labor-deprived market may afford them other opportunities. Davco is “trying to get more creative” by offering a variety of bonuses and working with staffing agencies to ensure it keeps enough employees during this time.

Davco plans to ask the state to retain its certificate of need, a legal document that is required in order to construct a new healthcare facility, and explore potential options to continue doing business in Murray.

“Ultimately, we’ve got to make sure that we can meet the needs of our residents,” Simpson said. “I don’t want sleepless nights wondering if my administrator’s going to have to work eight to 10 doubles in a row because she couldn’t get anybody to come in and work for it.”

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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