Diakonos Group Forges Ahead with New Skilled Nursing Construction Amid COVID-19

Securing state permission to build a skilled nursing facility in Oklahoma involves a lengthy certificate-of-need (CON) process — one that has to start months in advance. And because of that length of time, one operator finds itself launching new construction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Diakonos Group on May 14 announced the start of construction for a new post-acute rehabilitation facility in the Oklahoma City area, called Parc Place Medical Resort, which is scheduled to open in February 2021.

The new facility, which will feature 75 private rooms, is broken up into three houses, according to a press release announcing the start of construction.

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Diakonos has been working on the deal for around a year and a half because of the state’s CON restrictions, though it will be the end of the year before the facility is ready for a certificate of occupancy and licensure, Diakonos owner and CEO Scott Pilgrim told Skilled Nursing News during a May 14 interview.

And though it’s still not clear how the COVID-19 emergency is going to play out, he expressed hope that things would improve by next year.

“The hope at this point and time is that things will have settled down as a society and as a profession, we will have more perfected our ways of dealing with COVID-19, or perhaps have a vaccine,” Pilgrim told SNN.

Because there is so little new SNF construction in Oklahoma, Diakonos — which has 11 SNFs and six other types of facilities, including assisted living — has focused on buying distressed properties and bringing in new management with physical plant remodeling.

But one of its primary areas of focus — in areas where it can secure a strong skilled census — is ensuring that the long-term care population and the post-acute rehab population do not mingle, Pilgrim told SNN.

Keeping those populations separate is beneficial because the short-term patients do not want to be residents; they want to get better and return home, he explained. Building a new SNF from the ground up allowed for this division of care types to be more easily accommodated.

This was, of course, prior to COVID-19, which brought tremendous upheaval to the SNF world in general — and dire prognostications for short-term rehab in particular. But they could have the quickest recovery after COVID-19, and Diakonos is planning to make the facility as resort-like as possible, with room service and restaurant-style food options — as well as dining and activity areas kept central in “relatively short hallways.”

In terms of the building itself, the construction cost has not changed significantly, Pilgrim told SNN. The work began with Pi Architects, SCI Construction, and SMC Consulting Engineers, and though there’s been some slowdown due to material shortages or plant closures, it hasn’t been as much of a challenge; health care facility construction is designated as essential in the Sooner State.

And though the Oklahoma City facility is still under construction and will be so for some time, the three-house design could be adjusted to deal with the realities of COVID-19, if it emerges again when the facility is functioning.

“The fact that we have relatively small wings in this design in Oklahoma City would allow us to stand up a negative air pressure unit, should we have the necessity to do that in the future,” Pilgrim noted.

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