Picture of Heidi Thomas with her husband Alan at a pizza night
Heidi Thomas (left) and her husband, Alan Thomas (right) pictured at a pizza night this fall. Alan has been a resident at Good Samaritan for five years. Photo courtesy of Heidi Thomas.

The Arapahoe Good Samaritan Society, a nursing and assisted living facility, is one of three rural locations that is shutting down by the end of the year. According to a press release from the Good Samaritan Society, the closings are mainly due to a staffing issue that is largely affecting locations in smaller towns. Good Samaritan Society, and the company that manages these facilities, Sandford Health were only able to provide written statements at this time. 

Arapahoe Mayor John Koller said he received a 60-day notification that the location was closing in a meeting with the Good Samaritan regional vice president on Nov. 1.

“It’s shocking, in my opinion,” Koller said. “It’s unconscionable considering the faith-based foundation that they suggest they operate and live by, it was very difficult to understand why they would only give the absolute bare minimum [notification].”

According to the official journal of the United States Government, federal register 78, number 58, long-term care facility administrators must provide written notice of closure. They must also provide a written plan for the relocation of residents within 60 days. 

Despite the short notice, Koller said Good Samaritan has pledged to relocate patients and staff to nearby long-term care facilities. The catch – most of the patients will be going to long-term care facilities managed by Good Samaritan over 40 miles away. 

“It was very obvious that they prefer to have them relocate to other Good Samaritan facilities, as well as the employees,” Koller said.  

Erick Maranda Lee, a resident of Arapahoe since 2012, said that he believes many of the patients’ health will decline with the move. 

“And really the move is just going to kill a lot of people,” Lee said. “I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but when your health is not the best a lot of times even just the slightest mental change can begin that degrade and cause it to go even faster.”

One patient of Good Samaritan, Alan Thomas, will be avoiding the move from Arapahoe thanks to his wife Heidi Thomas. Alan has Parkinson’s disease, which is accompanied by Lewy Body Dementia.

“Taking care of him at home was kind of cumbersome which is why I had him in nursing care,” Thomas said. “However, I choose home over driving 45 miles away, so that he can remember who his wife is.”

Thomas, who is a teacher for Arapahoe Public Schools, said she decided to employ three nurses from Good Samaritan to take care of her husband at home so she can avoid the long drive to visit her husband. According to Thomas, many of the Good Samaritan staff in Arapahoe are finding ways to stay in their hometown. 

“None of our staff are willing to go to the Good Samaritan Society that’s 40 miles away. They would all like to stay in town,” Thomas said. 

Like the patients in Good Samaritan, the staff also have reasons to stay, such as family. 

“It’s devastating,” Koller said. “You know, all these residents have family that lives in Arapahoe or lives very close to Arapahoe.”

Koller said he sent a letter to Good Samaritan, thanking them for their 60 years of service and as a last-ditch effort to try and persuade them to transition the ownership of the building back to the town. 

“They plan to sell the facility and put the facility up for sale, and also put a non-compete clause, [saying] that it can never be used by the purchaser as a healthcare facility again,” Koller said. 

According to Koller, he said he hopes that Good Samaritan will transfer ownership back to the town so they can use the building.

“It’s just sad that people had plans for their whole life to just stay here, and it’s difficult to see them have to go through this,” Koller said.

Two other Good Samaritan locations are closing by the end of the year in Valentine and Ravenna. Ravenna Mayor Peg Dethlefs said communication has been strenuous with Good Samaritan.

“I haven’t been able to really get any answers,” Dethlefs said. 

According to Dethlefs, she was also informed of the closing on Nov. 1. Dethlefs said Good Samaritan told her that the closings had been ‘in the works for a year.’ 

“And if it’s been in the works for a year, I mean, they could have told us in January,” Dethlefs said. 

Shane Siewert, the Valentine city manager, said he was also informed of the closing of Valentine’s Good Samaritan 60 days before its last day. But, he also said that there had been rumors of its closure for a while. 

“I wish it would have been a more open process, but I understand that there were other considerations,” Siewert said. 

While he wishes Good Samaritan was more transparent, Siewert said he understands why Good Samaritan choose to give a late notice to the towns. If they gave the notification sooner, staff working at the three locations may have left, exacerbating the issue, according to Siewert. 

A total of around 86 patients will be displaced from the Good Samaritans in Arapahoe, Ravenna and Valentine. 

“I think we kind of made a deal with the devil with them. If I could make a play on their situation. They don’t represent their Christian values,” Thomas said.