The management team at Huntsville Health & Rehabilitation includes, left to right: Kelsi Lay, assistant director of nursing; Craig Green, administrator; Carla Buttram, corporate administrator; and Teresa Silcox, director of nursing | Ben Garrett/IH

Carla Buttram’s eyes sparkle as she talks about the future of Huntsville Health & Rehabilitation. Buttram, the long-time administrator of the assisted living facility, formerly Huntsville Manor, is in a new role these days. She’s working for a new company, and the name on the building has changed. But it’s the other changes — the ones that are deeper than words on paper; the ones that haven’t yet been fully implemented — that has Buttram truly excited.

“They have a heart, and they’re providing the whole heart of what we need as we move into the future,” Buttram says of Huntsville Health & Rehab’s new owners. New York-based Plainview Health Care purchased Huntsville Manor from Epic Management earlier this year. They’re rapidly expanding, and now own half a dozen nursing homes in Tennessee, and one in Kentucky. They also own facilities across the Midwest.

“They’re young and intelligent. They’re brilliant,” Buttram says of the faces behind Plainview. “We’re still in the transition phases right now, but what I’ve seen, I like.” 

At first glance, not much has changed inside the Huntsville assisted living facility. The faces are the same, the accommodations are largely the same. Perhaps the biggest change is that Buttram has to seek out an office to use for a sit-down with the Independent Herald for this story. She no longer has her own office at the facility because she’s no longer the administrator there. After 15 years of managing operations at the Huntsville home, she’s moved into a corporate role with Plainview, overseeing all of their facilities in Tennessee and the one in Kentucky. A new administrator, Craig Green, assumed duties October 1.

But it’s the changes that aren’t immediately visible — some because they haven’t yet been implemented — that has Buttram excited about the direction of Huntsville Health & Rehab.

“The market has changed,” Buttram said. “We have to accommodate what the market wants. It’s a different population of people now with the baby boomers coming in. The previous generation didn’t grow up around the internet and cell phones. So we have to prepare for that.”

With that in mind, Huntsville Health & Rehab — and the other Plainview facilities — have gotten a tech upgrade. Buttram boasts that the wifi inside the Huntsville home is “the best there is,” a top-of-the-line connection from Highland Communications. The company has also invested in a supply of iPads, Apple’s popular tablet devices. Residents or patients who aren’t comfortable with a laptop computer can keep up on Facebook or email that way.

The tech upgrades even go as far as the televisions on the wall. The concept of a TV in residents’ rooms isn’t new, of course; there have long been TVs on the wall. “But if you’re someone with bad eyesight, it’s hard to see,” Buttram said. So, when Plainview purchased the facility they said, “‘Let’s just put 55-inch TVs in the room, Carla, will that work?’” she recalls. “I said that would work wonderful. And we’re in the process of changing those out now.”

Of course, what really matters is the level of care that residents and patients receive, and changes are occurring there, as well. Buttram said Huntsville Health & Rehab is currently exploring a way to bring specialty medical care services into the facility.

“So instead of having to transport for specialty appointments in Knoxville, we would have doctors right here,” she explained. 

The facility has long had a full-time nurse practitioner on staff, but bringing in specialists would take it a step further, and help meet the demands of a changing industry. As insurances have changed, patients are no longer hospitalized as long as they were in years past. That means facilities like Huntsville Health & Rehab see more patients with a need for acute care than they used to, because those patients are being discharged from the hospital more quickly. So adding specialists just makes sense, in addition to the dental care and eye care services that are already offered on-site.

“We’re growing into kind of a facet of whatever they need while they’re here, they’re going to get, around the clock,” Buttram said. “They won’t have to leave here (for care) until they’re ready to go home.”

For that concept to work, dialysis would have to be offered, since patients who require dialysis are currently required to leave the facilities three days each week and travel outside Scott County for the treatments. Buttram had already researched the prospect of providing dialysis when she was administrator at the facility, and the process of implementing that offering has begun.

“They have to go three times a week for dialysis, and it just wears them out,” Buttram said. “I think you’re going to see that as our next service area that we’ll be offering for our patients.”

The facility is also going to start in-house CNA classes, so that those professionals can be trained on-site. “We’re accepting applications for anyone who wants to apply for our first CNA class,” Buttram said. “There are lots of opportunities in this field for a lot of different positions. You don’t have to be a nurse. There is mega opportunity.”

Other changes are mostly aesthetic in nature — a move to LED lighting, new flooring in part of the facility, and moving to a contemporary spa setting for shower rooms. Outside, the iron fences will be replaced with a white picket fence to give the facility a more homey look.

“We’re continuing to do outpatient rehab, we still have our therapy department with the same team that has been here, some of them, for well over 15 years,” Buttram said. “The things we had, we still have. But we’re growing the way they want us to grow. And I think these are good things.”

With change comes opportunity, and Buttram said there is opportunity at Huntsville Health & Rehab.

“As they’re growing, we’re growing region-wide,” she said. “There are some things there that can be promising for people getting into this industry. In health care there is a lot of opportunity. We do take an inside look at people in  our facilities when regional positions come open. We want to give people opportunity for growth, not only within the facility but within the company.

“Sometimes people think you have to have a nursing background to be in this field, but you don’t,” she added. “You’ll learn as you go.”

If anyone understands the opportunity, it’s Buttram. She said she’s enjoying her new role, even though it means a hectic schedule.

“I feel God has blessed me,” she said. “He’s opened doors for me, and I feel I’ve been given a huge opportunity. I’m thankful for that.”

And what she’s found, she said, others can find, as well.

“We have people in this county that are hard workers, that are intelligent,” she said. “We can grow with the times. You don’t have to move people in to do a certain kind of job, and I think they (Plainview) understand that.”

In the meantime, the focus is on implementing the ambitious goals for Huntsville Health & Rehab, with an eye to the future. 

“There’s always room for improvement,” Buttram said. “We’re never where we want to be, but we can work daily on where we want to go.”

This article is the October 2019 installment of Business Spotlight, presented by the Scott County Chamber of Commerce on the third week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Back Page Features series. A print version of this article can be found on Page B6 of the October 17, 2019 edition of the Independent Herald.