Steps down as administrator
Although Wednesday, July 31, officially was his last day as administrator of the Lake Stockton Healthcare Facility, Kevin Costello said he still might be around for a few more days to tidy up and take care of some leftover responsibilities.
“We have a state survey revisit pending, so they can come back any time between now and Aug. 9,” Costello said from his office in the new Stockton nursing home on Third Street. “So it’s possible I might still be the administrator until Aug. 9. But for the prospect of not being the administrator, no, that hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Chris McBratney has been named as Costello’s replacement. He currently is Citizens Memorial Hospital’s west director of long-term care, moving from Ash Grove and assuming responsibility over facilities in Stockton, El Dorado Springs and Ash Grove.
“That’s the best-case scenario for us, because he has all the knowledge and expertise,” Costello said of McBratney’s move. “He knows my staff; he knows the building. I couldn’t imagine a better succession plan for it.”
When it comes to favorite memories of his time as administrator, the residents immediately come to Costello’s mind.
“Of course, I had several who spent a great deal of their time pestering me here in my office,” Costello said with a smile. “The fact [we were] able to provide care to so many of our friends and neighbors, I think that’s the thing I’ll remember the most.”
Likewise, the various staff members Costello worked with over the years provide another lasting memory, although he declined to single out anyone in particular.
“You develop some really strong relationships with the folks you work with, side-by-side for that many years,” Costello said. “Several employees have been here 20-some years or more, and you just develop close friendships with those people.”
Although Costello had been administrator since January 1989, he admitted he wore quite a few other hats during his tenure.
“Everything from administrator to taxi driver to laying floor tile to mowing the yard,” he recounted. “They wouldn’t ever let me cook, which is a wise choice. I help out on the floor wherever I can. Anything that didn’t require a license I’ve probably done.”
Costello reflected on the construction and move to the new facility, completed in April.
“[It was a] long process,” he said. “We began planning the building several years ago. Actually, at the time of the merger [with Citizens Memorial Hospital] back in 2011, that was the agreement CMH would construct a new facility. Instead of money changing hands, it was just CMH agreeing either to invest in the old facility or build a new facility.
“The plan for the move was several months in the making. The logistics of getting all the residents moved safely, the medications at both places when you need them, the transportation, getting staff set up in both places — the move itself was very well planned out, I thought. We had everyone moved in less than two hours.
“We’re still trying to figure out the best way to do things,” Costello added. “It’s a much bigger building. We went from 38,000 square feet to over 50,000.”
Although no longer the nursing home administrator, Costello will continue to work under the CMH umbrella.
“They’re working on a new job description for me where I will remain in long-term care,” he said. “I’ll be involved in census development for our long-term care facilities, also involved in recruiting staff and safety initiatives throughout the facilities.”
He and his wife Jamie are thinking of moving to the Bolivar area to be closer to extended family.
Costello conceded events of this past Memorial Day weekend were factors in his decision to step down, although he said he had been thinking about it for a while.
“I had talked to my wife in April, shortly after the move, about our next step,” Costello said. “I thought it was time for me to step down. We had been having those discussions, but I hadn’t had discussions with my boss or anyone else. Then the events of Memorial Day just kind of brought everything into focus, and Jamie and I decided it was just the right time.”
In the late hours of Sunday, May 26, Costello phoned a friend saying a person in a white vehicle was following him closely near the Stockton city limits and he intended to pull off the road to let the vehicle pass. An injured Costello later was found south of El Dorado Springs, the victim of an apparent assault and needing medical attention.
“That was quite a shock to my family, to me and my family,” Costello said. “I’m still struggling with some of those things, but to say I stepped down because of that wouldn’t be true. It was just something that influenced the decision that I was already leaning toward anyhow.”
Costello said he remembered random images from the incident, but not enough to tell a complete story of what happened.
“I have just a few flashes of memories that night, but none of it really helps us determine what might have happened,” Costello said. “I can remember apparently being on the airport runway at El Dorado. I can remember being in a cemetery. I can remember seeing electric fence flashing, like at night when it gets against grass or something, it’ll flash. I remember hogs grunting at me, and I remember being under a trailer when it was raining. None of that helps us figure out who was involved.”
The Cedar County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the incident.