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Joyce Endee

Nursing home administrator announces retirement

SANDI MCKENZIE, in a photo taken at the North Conway Grand Hotel on Oct. 24, 2011, where she was named County Nursing Home Administrator of the Year by New Hampshire Association of Counties. (Courtesy photo)
August 02, 2012
OSSIPEE— Citing health reasons, Mountain View Community Administrator Sandi McKenzie is retiring, effective Aug. 31. Her announcement came on July 25.

As news of her retirement travelled throughout the county complex and the community, many spoke of the positive impact McKenzie has had on the nursing home employees and residents and how her hard work and forward thinking has made her such an asset that finding someone to fill that position will be difficult, at best.

McKenzie said leaving was a very difficult decision to make. She was very ill in April and assumed that she would automatically get better, but it has been a slow process. "As women and as caregivers we often focus on taking care of others and get so busy doing that we forget to take care of ourselves. At some point we have to make the decision to take care of ourselves," she said.

When the news of her departure first broke, many wondered if the tumultuous nature of county politics had forced McKenzie to retire. The goings-on at the county complex have captured headlines nearly every week, and at least in the past year and a half, the negative news has been in the spotlight far more than the positive. McKenzie declined to talk about the political undercurrent or whether or not she felt supported by all three members of the current board of commissioners, opting instead to answer, "I handle stress very well. It's the nature of being in a leadership position."

McKenzie first took on the role of interim administrator, asked to come on board during a difficult time at the old nursing home when there were consistently a number of empty beds, policies and procedures needed to be revamped, and the way the home was doing business needed a near complete overhaul. She thought she would help out for a short time to get things headed in the right direction and then move on but, she said, she was fortunate to stay. She has been the home administrator since April 2009.

McKenzie said that leaving will be especially difficult because she views the staff, 103 residents and the resident's families as an extension of her own family.

She is credited for working non-stop with the planning, the construction process, and the smooth transition from the old county nursing home to the new. But she won't take credit for all of that, saying only that she feels blessed to have been involved in this very special time and that it wasn't a "Sandi McKenzie thing" -- it was a true team effort. She is especially proud of the work that went into changing the name of the nursing home and the way it operates to shed the institutional stigma and begin anew as a community.

As for her successor, the next administrator, McKenzie said this is a positive time, a time when someone can be brought in that has a different perspective, someone who is forward-thinking and can take Mountain View Community from where it is now and help it grow for the future, especially with the many changes to Medicaid and dramatic changes in healthcare on the horizon. But perhaps, even more importantly, that person is going to need the full support and trust from the elected officials that they work for.

Former Carroll County Commissioner Chip Albee said that McKenzie is exactly the person the county needed in her position and that she is head and shoulders above anybody else that could have taken it on. "The deficiencies at the old home were abysmal. Because of all the changes that she made, her plan turned the home around, a major accomplishment," said Albee.

NH State Representative David Babson said of McKenzie, "Sandi McKenzie is probably the person that Carroll County can least afford to lose. During her tenure as Nursing Home Administrator she has substantially increased revenue , week after week run at an amazing nearly 100% occupancy, orchestrated the building of the new nursing home and the movement of the residents to it without a hitch and demonstrated that she is worth every penny that the taxpayers paid her. Whoever replaces her will have a big pair of shoes to fill."

And from former Carroll County Commissioner Marge Webster, "I am saddened to hear of the health issues and the resignation of MVC 's Administrator Sandi McKenzie. I was proud to be part of the team that hired her for Carroll County at a time when the nursing home was in turmoil due to lack of leadership at the helm and in desperate need of a strong, professional and knowledgeable leader which is what Sandi McKenzie is. I have known Sandi for years so was keenly aware of her outstanding work as a nurse and as an administrator, so she was the perfect person to lead the new modern design and construction of the Mountain View Community. The transformation of the operation and the creation of the "HOME" atmosphere as well as the increase of the morale among the employees was so needed and done with extreme professionalism by Sandi. The resignation of Sandi is a major loss to Carroll County. This makes the loss of two top management leaders in two months for a county that's board of commissioners is in turmoil thus making the hiring of equally capable leaders less attractive even with economic climate at a standstill. I wish Sandi the best of health and her work and leadership will be a legacy at MVC."

As of press time, county commissioners had not met again since McKenzie's retirement announcement so it is unclear what they will do next. Albee suggested that because of the specialized nature of the nursing home administrator position, it is unlikely that the commissioners are qualified to interview candidates effectively. He said it will be difficult for the board to find a replacement and perhaps a committee of health care professionals, including perhaps McKenzie, could be formed to interview and recommend her successor.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Garnett HIll
Varney Smith
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