By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Former HLRC Director of Nursing Speaks Out

Concerns Raised About Hi-Line Nursing Homes


In a recent press release, Billings-based Health Management Services (HMS) announced that they would be reducing Malta’s Hi-Line Retirement Center (HLRC) from a nursing home to an assisted living center in coming months. HMS also manages Glasgow’s Valley View Home, which has also seen its fair share of recent budgeting woes, staffing concerns and questionable management under their watch. The change in status in Malta will almost certainly involve a reduction in current residents at the facility. In fact, the exodus to other regional facilities may already have begun.

Dorothy Johnson used to reside at HLRC until recently when she left for Chinook’s Sweet Home nursing home facility, along with another HLRC resident, out of fear of being asked to leave and being forced further from Malta. Johnson had the following to add to the HLRC story from her view as a resident:

“I never thought I would see the day when people would be reluctant to speak freely about an issue so close to their hearts, but this seems to be the case regarding what has been going on at Hi-Line. When one has raised dissatisfaction about one thing or another in the past, residents have been told they are free to leave. Someone from Butte is scheduled to come this week to evaluate each resident to determine who meets the criteria to be in assisted living and who doesn’t. It sounds harsh but it reminds me of darker days in history - the 1940’s come to mind. That’s why I moved as soon as I could.”

In a recent interview on KMMR Radio in Malta, HMS Vice President Karl Rude cited an inability to recruit and retain local nurses as a major road block to HMS’ success in maintaining a nursing home on the Hi-Line.

This past week, former HLRC Director of Nursing Becky Ewing spoke with the Courier, contradicting Rude’s claims about staffing challenges. Ewing had worked in her capacity as director at HLRC since April when she was suddenly let go by HMS. She was told the reason was a failure to be a “team player.” Ewing said, “I was terminated because I wouldn’t go along with the staffing ratios HMS was trying to impose.”

Ewing cited her own authority and accountability, as the Director of Nursing, to make those decisions, and her concern for the needs of residents, especially those who required multiple certified nursing assistants (CNA) and registered nurses for daily care.

“You have to weigh the acuity of care,” said Ewing, “Karl (Rude) has no clue what it’s like to be on the floor.” Ewing added that she could not sign off on reduced CNA numbers per wing as requested, despite the threat to her job.

According to Ewing, some of her fellow nurses and former HLRC board member Suzanne Koss stood up for her and her position to Rude: “When I was working there we had local nurses coming back… we had four local nurses and myself with about seven to nine local CNAs.”

Another employee who had worked at HLRC told the Courier, “It’s like everyone who disagrees with him (Rude), or who wants what’s best for the residents is forced out… It’s really odd.” The former employee chose to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation from HMS. An additional anonymous source, who also fears for their job in the healthcare industry, claimed the environment at HLRC is terrible for both employees and residents.

Ewing had words of caution to HLRC’s Board of Directors, “I would say to the board to do your homework, and don’t take what he tells you for granted […] I’m a nurse for a reason and I passionately care for my residents and it breaks my heart […] there is no one left to advocate for them.”


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