Thursday, January 30, 2014

While Nashville subsidizes a convention center for tourists it may end subsizing long-term care for its own elderly

Cities don’t have the expertise.
--Mayor Karl Dean's excuse for proposing to sell Metro-run
Bordeaux Long-Term Care to a private corporation

Taking care of tourists, selling out the elderly.
I do not know the history of public nursing home care in Nashville. I would not be surprised to learn that it grew out of the Depression-era New Deal or out of the civil rights revolutions of LBJ's Great Society. But I cannot say with certainty for now that I know those possibilities to be factual. [Note: see "Historical Update" added below].

I can say that when I started following a community-based organization here in Nashville in the early 1990s, Metro-run nursing homes were in existence. That organization, Tying Nashville Together, conducted public hearings with official's regarding Metro's nursing homes and even challenged Mayor Phil Bredesen to raise the pay of Metro's nursing home workers to help assure quality care for the elderly.

So, Metro has been about the business of operating nursing homes for some time now to my knowledge. Unless at least 3 administrations have been malfeasant--including Karl Dean's 2 terms in executive office--and they all hired assisted living staffs that were not qualified for the positions, then how can Mayor Dean now claim that our city has no expertise at running nursing homes? The city has a track record and institutional knowledge in the field. What exactly is he expressing to past residents and their families about the care they received from Metro Nashville's employees?

The context of Mayor Dean's quote is plain, according to the Tennessean. They are clear that, by selling, Nashville will join a list of other red-state cities to bail on public nursing home care, and in the process Nashville will save $10.5 million (maybe to help offset a more expensive new ballpark at Sulphur Dell?). The entire quote from Karl Dean then follows: "In this environment, city-operated facilities just aren’t competitive....Cities don’t have the expertise."

The Mayor's comments belie the Bordeaux facility's own introduction:

Bordeaux Long-Term a regional leader in the provision of intermediate and skilled healthcare, rehabilitation therapy and palliative care. We are committed to providing our residents with the highest quality healthcare in a comfortable and caring environment. With an impressive team of compassionate caregivers, the Bordeaux Long-Term Care staff is trained to provide a broad range of healthcare services and rehabilitative therapies while promoting creativity, innovation and clinical excellence.

Again, how can residents and their families at Bordeaux have faith in any of these words they might have read in the past when the Mayor himself insinuates that Metro does not exactly know what it is doing in assisting living treatment? What would the Mayor say about Bordeaux's authenticity when he claims a private company can serve residents better than they have? That Metro Nashville was never really genuine about the high quality of care provided to its own residents?

Besides Karl Dean poisoning his own well with the claim that the city's nursing care delivery cannot keep up with private companies, his logic is shot full of holes. Did the city have the expertise that tourism industry giants like Gaylord Entertainment have when it subsidized the building and maintenance of a new convention center and hotel? He did not think twice about Nashville competing with private companies for tourism dollars when he built and operated Music City Center, which serves actual Nashvillians measurably less directly than long-term facilities do.

Maybe it is just easier for Karl Dean to give up on elderly Nashvillians because they have a lot less disposable income than tourists and the tourism industry does. Lest you assume this is no big deal, just remember that governments, in privatizing their services, have screwed up service delivery: utilities, prisons, schools, the military, you name it. There is some kind of horror story involved in every effort to privatize that I am aware of. And the casualties are usually common folk.

I await further details on Hizzoner's latest privatization plan, but it looks despicable, even vicious, right now.


Bordeaux Long-Term Care, Metro Nashville's current 420-bed nursing home on 121 acres northwest of downtown, began in 1893 as the successor to the poor farm. It provided various medical services to residents as Bordeaux Hospital until 1967 when its focus became long-term care.


  1. You twist yourself in knots to insert a put-down of the Republican party, and it takes away from your writing and point.

  2. Nashville has in fact had the ability and expertise to deliver excellent nursing home care for well over 100 years at Bordeaux. I know this first hand. My uncle and my father were patients at Bordeaux. As the person in charge of my father's affairs, I know very well of the great and compassionate care he received at Bordeaux. When he was no longer able to take care of himself he requested to go to Bordeaux.

    As for Karl Dean, the patients at Bordeaux are not of his base. He is an elitist pure and simple.

    He proved this by his scheme to destroy the Fairgrounds and of His support of the Music City Center and now the Amp.

    Now on the Councilmember Maynard. He was quoted in the news as saying that Nashville does not need to be in the nursing home business. I wonder if he thinks it is time for Nashville divest itself of the Hospital it owns?