When the 12 Oaks Senior Living management company of Dallas took over the management of four senior properties in El Paso, TX, occupancy rates were slipping badly and telltale signs of neglect were becoming more apparent.

Keith Ashburn, 12 Oaks’ former Chief Operating Officer and now President in Dallas, credits a number of factors for a turnaround that saw occupancy rates climb from 76 percent when the property was purchased by Cambridge Investment and Finance Co. in January 2012 to 89 percent twelve months later.

At 12 Oaks, Mr. Ashburn’s former responsibilities included the supervision of management contracts for company-managed properties. And he continues to participate in the effort to recruit, hire, train and support on-site staff at eight senior housing properties currently managed by the company in Texas.

“A major reason for our success in El Paso has been the company’s commitment to have a strong, on-the-ground management presence in El Paso. It also helps that we’ve been on the same page with the owner regarding the types of improvements needed to bring the properties back to where we all believed they needed to be,” he said.

In El Paso, 12 Oaks is marketing the four Cambridge-owned properties under the SunRidge Senior Living banner. The portfolio includes SunRidge at Palisades, SunRidge at Cambria, SunRidge at Cielo Vista and SunRidge at Desert Springs.

Combined, the properties make SunRidge Senior Living the largest senior housing provider in the El Paso market.

Vice President Ray Cook is 12 Oaks’ man on the ground in El Paso and makes the point that the properties are geographically closer to Phoenix than to the company’s corporate headquarters in Dallas.

“Our way of doing business in El Paso is uniquely different than other Texas cities. For example, the demographics and marketing challenge is different. And, from a practical standpoint, the property management company must deal with five different third-party payor systems. In addition to the state Medicaid program, there are programs available through the National PACE Association, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and two other managed care organizations.

Mr. Cook says cosmetic improvements were made at each of the properties. While occupancy totals were on the rise, rooms were being refurbished, and the number of units available expanded either through conversions or better use of available space at three of the four SunRidge properties.

el paso healthcare propertiesAt SunRidge at Palisades, the largest property in the portfolio, the number of units climbed from 130 to 140. SunRidge at Cambria’s total rose from 96 to 101 units, and at SunRidge at Cielo Vista, the total was up from 105 to 114. Unit totals for SunRidge at Desert Springs, the newest property in the group, remained unchanged.

SunRidge at Desert Springs is totally dedicated to memory care treatment and all of the other properties now have Alzheimer’s certification as well, he noted.

Mr. Ashburn marvels at how smoothly the transition to new ownership of the properties has progressed.

“Working with Cambridge is not like working with other owners. For Cambridge, it’s not just about the numbers. The company chooses to be more involved in day-to-day decisions and brings another set of useful ideas to the table.

“We have three face-to-face meetings with Cambridge every year and keep communication channels open at all times. The Cambridge team has an exceptional knowledge of the healthcare industry and has been willing to drill deeper to learn more about our business. As a result, a relationship based on mutual trust and confidence has emerged,” he said.

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