County nursing home options debatedThe possible shift to a 50-bed facility at the St. Croix County Health Center nursing home continued to be the focus of discussion at the March 21 meeting of the Health and Human Services Board.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
The possible shift to a 50-bed facility at the St. Croix County Health Center nursing home continued to be the focus of discussion at the March 21 meeting of the Health and Human Services Board.
Health and Human Services Director Fred Johnson reported that the current resident population for the 72-bed facility is about 53.
That means that the county-owned facility is paying a bed tax (about $170 per month) on 19 beds that are not being used on a regular basis. Because the nursing home is more than 50 beds, the facility also receives a lower reimbursement payment for its Medicaid residents.
The larger facility also requires a full-time administrator and higher levels of staffing to serve the current residents.
From a financial standpoint, Johnson said, it remains clear that a downsizing to 50 beds might make sense for the county-owned nursing home. That way, staffing of the facility can be maximized, with 25 residents on each floor of the two-story structure, Johnson explained.
If the nursing home hopes to reach its goal of relying less on the county levy for financial support, something has to be done soon to cut expenses and bump up revenue, Johnson noted.
County board member Sharon Norton-Bauman said the county has invested in no less than four studies in recent years, and the conclusion of each study indicated that the nursing home should be reduced to 50 beds.
“When are we going to pick up and run with the advice we’re getting?” she asked.
Norton-Bauman said taxpayer funding picked up more than $1 million in expenses that resulted from the operation of the nursing home in 2011. That figure doesn’t include indirect expenses (like accounting and depreciation expenses) that are not currently charged back to the nursing home’s financial statements.
Johnson acknowledged that the county general fund contributed considerably more than what was budgeted for the nursing home last year, noting that about $228,000 in facilities fixes were paid for by taxpayers after federal inspectors uncovered several issues in the building.
But Johnson said he’s not ready to recommend a reduction in the nursing home’s licensed beds just yet. He said he’s waiting for the final financial statements for 2011, and waiting on responses from state regulators concerning the possibility of re-classifying several of the facility’s beds for a different purpose.
Within the next month or two, Johnson said, the board would likely be facing a proposal to change the operation of the nursing home if things stay like they are. If the facility drops to 50 beds, Johnson expected that the transition to that size would take one to two months.
Interim Nursing Home Administrator Cindy Anderson said the downsizing of nursing homes in the region is not unusual. Three private nursing homes in the immediate area have cut their licensed beds to 50 in recent months.
“So we’re not unusual,” she said.
County officials acknowledged that they are awaiting the results from next Tuesday’s local elections, which will include a county-wide referendum of voters. The referendum asks if voters wish to continue to support the nursing home operation with tax dollars.
Depending on the results from the non-binding vote, county officials said they expect the future direction for the nursing home will be solidified.