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Nursing home faces inspection deficiencies

The St. Croix County Health Center nursing home had just fared well in an annual state inspection, but then the unexpected happened.

Federal inspectors showed up and completed their own survey of the New Richmond facility. They found more problem areas than state inspectors, according to Nursing Home Administrator Frank Robinson.

"It was a very meticulous process," Robinson told the St. Croix County Health and Human Services Committee Aug. 17. "It was not a fun process by any means. They spent six to seven hours just touring the building."

The state survey conducted in July noted a total of three "deficiencies," including one deficiency that carried over from a previous inspection. State inspectors told nursing home officials that unannounced fire drills need to be conducted regularly, and a new smoke alarm needed to be installed in the facility's boiler room.

"It's stuff that we've already corrected," Robinson said.

Federal regulators, however, wrote up 21 deficiencies for the nursing home, according to Facilities Manager Art Tobin.

Among the corrections that are required are the lighting of an emergency exit, a settled sidewalk that could cause walkers to stumble and smoke walls that have settled and could allow smoke to travel into various parts of the complex. None of the issues have anything to do with the care provided to residents, Tobin said, and none involve serious safety concerns (like electrical, plumbing or air quality issues).

Tobin said county officials are working with federal inspectors to develop a correction plan in an effort to address the deficiencies.

"They're not going to give us a lot of time," Robinson predicted.

Robinson said cost estimates for the corrective action have not yet been developed.

"It seems like foolishness that we have to spend money on these types of things," Robinson commented.

Robinson, who has been in the nursing home business for 27 years, said he has never been subjected to a federal inspection. Tobin said the New Richmond facility has never had a federal inspection done since it was constructed.

Robinson said the big difference between the two inspections was frustrating, and seems to be the result of some sort of power struggle between the state and federal agencies.