AHCA's changing of the guard

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[AHCA CEO and President Bruce Yarwood, who will step down in January.]

It was an emotional general session at the American Health Care Association conference in Long Beach, CA, Monday. Bruce Yarwood, the mighty and well-loved president and CEO handed the reins of the group to Gov. Mark Parkinson, a clear-eyed, well-skilled politician.

Speaker after speaker thanked Yarwood for his leadership over five years at AHCA. Chair Bob Van Dyk praised his insightfulness and perseverance. Dave Kyllo of the National Center for Assisted Living lauded Yarwood's commitment and spirit. Yarwood is expected to receive more tributes Wednesday, the final day of the conference.

Yarwood was visibly moved when he took the stage for the last time. He tried to hold back tears with a slight cough but was touchingly unsuccessful in the effort. After a few brief remarks in which he characteristically talked bluntly about the state of long-term care (healthcare reform was an insurance package, he said), he left the stage, lingering wistfully by the wings. 

Taking over the stage to a standing ovation a short time later was Parkinson, a trim, tall politician. But lest anyone think he was a newbie, he right away established himself as one of AHCA's own—a long-term care owner and operator. He talked about building assisted living and nursing homes over 10 years and basically raising his children in the facilities.

He then gave his rallying cry to members, telling them it was time to take control over their destinies. He encouraged them to lobby fiercely, become the quality leaders in the care of the elderly and unite as a diverse group of providers.

Optimism

Parkinson left a good impression with his prospective members.

“I love the fact he's a provider,” said Jill Herron, owner of Welcome Nursing Home, a family-owned nursing home in Oberlin, OH, summing up the reactions of others. “It's one thing to learn our challenges. It's another thing to live them.”

Mingling at a reception featuring spinach pastries and other appetizers outside the conference center in chilly Long Beach, other providers seemed optimistic about their new boss. 

“He's a winner,” stated Brian S. Allen, president and CEO of United Church Homes in Marion, OH.

Still, among some members, the feeling was bittersweet as Yarwood, an influential leader, leaves the scene.

He's like “an icon,” said Gwynn Rucker, district director of operations for Kindred Healthcare in Seattle.

Rucker said she knew Yarwood since he was head of the California AHCA affiliate. 

The world of long-term care is different today because of Yarwood, she said.

“I think his influence will live on long past his relationship with AHCA,” she said.

But Rucker also said it was exciting to listen to Parkinson. She liked the fact he was a provider. 

“It seems like he gets it,” she said.

Welcome aboard, Governor. 

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.

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