Future Leader: Eli Mirlis, CEO, Regal Care

The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.

Eli Mirlis, CEO at Regal Care, has been named a 2020 Future Leader by Skilled Nursing News.

To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.

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Mirlis sat down with Skilled Nursing News to talk about how he came to skilled nursing and the need for better collaboration between all SNF stakeholders – from operators to the federal government.

What drew you to the skilled nursing profession?

Soon after my time in college, I was looking for some sort of job that would provide, and landed on becoming a nursing home administrator, and that’s where I started off as an AIP, assistant administrator and eventually moving on to owner-operator. 2009 was when I entered the field.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned since beginning to work in this industry?

Each time I thought I saw the toughest or the hardest or the most shocking thing that would hit us in the skilled nursing arena – I guess it never ceases to amaze us, what comes next. I went through the hurricanes, Irene and Sandy. I evacuated a facility down in the Jersey Shore. And we thought: “Wow, that’s going to be the toughest thing we’ve ever gone through, evacuating 120 patients or so.” And then COVID-19 hit. When we all thought we’d seen the worst, we just got hit with something new. So definitely an experience. That we’re obviously still going through, still learning and ever-changing.

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We actually shut down visits at the facilities before our state – my homes are mostly in Connecticut – before the state put a lockdown, before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) put a lockdown. So we actually preempted that, and we believe that it definitely helped save lives.

What do you foresee as being different about the skilled nursing industry looking ahead to 2021? 

I would hope that what we move forward out of this is more of a collaborative effort between the operators and the state surveyors and CMS, to collaborate to make sure that the skilled nursing arena is properly prepared and funded to deal with something of this magnitude. Most states, if not all states are underfunded, and it makes it obviously very difficult to be properly prepared and set up to be able to withstand what we went through in the pandemic.

If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of skilled nursing, what would it be? 

It would be nice for the state surveyors as well as CMS to actually appreciate what the SNFs do from the certified nursing assistants to dietary housekeeping, to actually appreciate how difficult the job is, and how much we actually do care and try our best to keep everyone safe and healthy and get them better and get them home – obviously for many patients, it is their home long-term. But that we actually do care; we obviously have a terrible rap out there, where many just think that we don’t care and that we’re indifferent to what’s going on.

I actually think it’s very important for everyone to realize that we do care. I would say 99% of operators try very hard to maintain a safe and clean environment for the residents. It’s really a change of culture and change of attitude towards the skilled nursing facilities.

To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit the Future Leaders homepage.

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