Nursing home gets five-star rating
July 27, 2017
By Bill Wilson
The Cleburne News

Cleburne County Hospital Board chairman Denise White cried when she received a text from the Cleburne County Nursing Home administrator Tony Culberson. The news Wednesday of last week was good: The nursing home had been ranked as a five-star facility by Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website.

White responded quickly, thanking Culberson, grateful for the improved status of her institution.  

The rating was five stars in each of the five categories which were ranked, including overall quality, health inspections, quality measures, staffing and registered nurse staffing. The news of the ranking spread quickly on social media among the employees, staff and the hospital board after Culberson texted a photo of the five-star rating to White.

“It makes me feel wonderful, and I would love to take credit for all of it, but what the board did when I came in is they opened up what I consider to be an extremely open management partnership,” Culberson said.

Just three years ago the nursing home had a two-star ranking and problems resulting in a fine of $144,000 from the Alabama Department of Public Health, which oversees nursing homes, according to White.

 The all-volunteer Cleburne County Hospital Board oversees the nursing home and the Cleburne County Emergency Medical Service. Besides levying the $144,000 fine, the state also put a halt to the institution accepting new residents and the nursing home lost its in-house certified nursing assistant program, according to White. At that time the nursing home had 64 residents; it takes a minimum of 73 residents just to break even, said White.

White was appointed to the hospital board by Cleburne County Commissioner Emmett Owen and attended her first meeting in September 2014. White said that meeting was raucous and crowded, attended by employees worried about their jobs, family members of residents, concerned residents and politicians.

White was elected chairwoman at the next board meeting in October 2014 and her vision for a better nursing home commenced.

“Our work was cut out for us and we had to make a lot of difficult decisions, basically it was sink or swim,” White said.

The board decided to implement the following steps in 2014:

— Revamped the speech, occupational and physical therapy departments.

— Reevaluated the pay scale to be more competitive.

— Outsourced housekeeping and the dietary department.

— Changed pharmacies to get a better rate

— Hired Culberson as administrator.

White said the last three years have been tough but worth it. Board attorneys John and Patrick Casey have been instrumental in helping the nursing home with legal advice according to White.

The hospital board gets $448,000 per year from a 4-mill property tax, according to White, who said the tax goes to the following expenses:

— $18,000 to the Cleburne County Health Department.

— $18,000 to Highland Health Services

— $600 to United Cerebral Palsy

— $270,000 to the Cleburne County EMS that in turn gives Cleburne County E911 $30,130.80

That leaves $136,400 that the board has this year and White said the money will go to pay expense.

In 2016 the board helped the nursing home with the following improvements:

— Replaced 82 beds and mattresses.

— Bought new medical equipment.

— Installed a koi fish pond.

— Built a bigger parking lot and added walkways.

— Installed a fountain.

— Bought new office equipment and furniture.

— Developed a new Alzheimer’s unit that will open soon.

Today the nursing home is at capacity with a waiting list, and the certified nursing certification program and testing center have been reinstated this year, allowing employees to be certified at the nursing home. The testing center allows applicants who have been trained at other facilities to test at the nursing home to get their certified nursing assistant certification.

Director of nursing Stephanie Arnold praised Culberson and was proud of the five-star rating.

“I’ve just seen tremendous change, he’s been an excellent leader, he sells himself short, he tries to give us some credit but it is his leadership that helps us along,” Arnold said.


— Chairman Denise White

— Coker Cleveland

— Sandy Weston

— Beverly Owens

— Dan Hopkins

— Sherry Brown

— Landon Brown

— Nikki Smallwood (appointed in May)