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Nursing home finances improve but still weak

The St. Croix Health Center nursing home continues to run at near maximum capacity, but Administrator Jack Williams said the overall financial picture remains worrisome.

Since the nursing home reduced its 72-bed facility to 50 beds last year, the county-owned operation has had occupancy numbers between 48 and 50, Williams told the St. Croix County Health and Human Services Board at its regular meeting Monday.

What's working in the nursing home's favor is some hospitals' desire to discharge patients to facilities that have four- or five-star ratings, Williams reported. The New Richmond facility has maintained a federal five-star rating for several years.

Even though the nursing home's financial picture has improved by about $300,000 compared to 2012, Williams said the facility has still lost about $143,000 so far this year.

"We still have work to do," he said.

As the facility's revenue options have been maximized, Williams said, administrators will have to take another look at expenses to help balance the budget.

Later in the meeting, in his 2012 audit report, Auditor Trent Fast reported that the nursing home lost $785,000 last year. While progress has been made to close the budget gap in recent months, Fast said salaries and benefits for employees may still need to be addressed.

"There's still a big hill to climb," he said.

In other business:

-- County Administrator Patrick Thompson said if the County Market building in New Richmond is purchased to house Health and Human Services offices, it's likely that the county would try to sell its building in Baldwin. The 20 county employees housed there would likely be moved to space in Hudson, he said.

Thompson noted that federal agencies currently lease space in the Baldwin building, but they do not intend to extend their lease.

-- Thompson reported that the county continues to serve clients through the St. Croix Industries program for adults with disabilities. He said if the county decides to transfer the operation to a private entity, the county will still serve residents until the transition is complete.

"We haven't washed our hands of it," he pledged. "We never have and never will."

Thompson said county officials have been assured that, if the program moves to a private agency, service to clients will not be interrupted and transportation services would be assured.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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