More than 50 Tuskegee nursing home patients may soon have to find new homes. That's after city leaders say Salem Nursing Home will lose its eligibility to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, which will likely lead to the nursing home's closure, putting 70 people out of work.
Salem Nursing Home has been a fixture in Tuskegee since 1968, when the city put up money to build the facility. For people with family members there, like Bessie Blackmon, its potential closure leaves a lot of questions.
"Where are they gonna go? Where are they gonna go? Because they can't go back home. There's no one there to take care of them. They're going to be devastated if they leave there, and where are they gonna go, because they depend on that place for a home," she said.
Mayor Johnny Ford says the city is working to find new homes for all the patients.
"Their families will have the first choice in terms of deciding what is to happen to them. They may want to take them home, they may have another nursing home they would like to take them to," Ford said.
This is not the first time Salem Nursing Home has faced closure. It shut its doors in the late 1980s, something Ford wants to avoid.
"Whenever you have senior citizens, you have to be very careful. If they think that they're going to be put out in the cold, if they think they're going to lose their home. Last time, we lost two or three in that process," he said.
Salem reopened under new operators, but problems continued. A July 2013 inspection showed 15 health violations. According to Medicare, the state average is 4.
Now Ford says he wants a new operator to take over and improve the center.
"We're stepping in again to make sure that we save Salem. Most of all, save the lives and the jobs and the economic impact that this medical institution provides for our community," said Ford.
An economic impact Bessie Blackmon knows. Her sister works at Salem.
"If she lost her job, how is she going to handle her bills and all that? So it's devastating if we lost that place. I hope we get together and try to save the nursing home," Blackmon said.
We did reach out to the operators of Salem Nursing Home, but they would not respond to requests for comment.
It's not clear when the nursing home will officially close, but it will lose its Medicare eligibility on January 13th.
Mayor Johnny Ford says the city has already identified a potential operator to take over the nursing home. He says the city is helping patients find homes at Tuskegee's other nursing facility, Magnolia Haven, in the meantime.