Sunday, January 08, 2017

Dropping Occupancy Levels, Very Low Medicare/Medicaid Reimbursements Trigger Closure Of Another Nursing Home, Forcing Over Two Dozen Elderly/Poor Patients To Pack Their Bags, Find Another Care Facility By Next Month

In River Falls, Wisconsin, the Pierce County Herald reports:
  • The numbers were off for a year, then they got even worse. Licensed for 50 beds, The Lutheran Home's (in River Falls) occupancy averaged barely 40 nursing home residents from January through May. Then it dropped to the mid-30s.

    By the time of last week's closing announcement, only 29 beds were filled at the local nursing home.

    “That is what determines how healthy your facility is,” said Lutheran Home Executive Director Spencer Beard. “Our numbers have been going down.”

    A news release from parent company The Lutheran Home Association in Belle Plaine, Minn., gave this reason for the Lutheran home's closing:

    “The decision was made after a thorough analysis of the changing marketplace in the River Falls and Hudson area. Trends indicate seniors have a strong desire to remain independent as long as possible, and the demand for skilled nursing care has decreased in this region.”

    According to a letter from Beth Wadsley, Lutheran Home Association human resources director, the closing process in River Falls began Tuesday, Dec. 6. It will end with a total closure Feb. 23.

    The three-story nursing home at 640 N. Main St. employs 62 people — from housekeepers and nursing assistants to registered nurses and dietary aides. Almost all will lose their jobs.
    Beard said that the Tuesday, Dec. 6, closing announcement to staff, residents and their family members was emotional — one that produced shock, sadness and tears.

    “It seemed that our staff members were more upset for the residents than for themselves and losing their positions,” Beard said. “I think that says a lot about the great quality of care that is given in this facility. We have wonderful caretakers, and that never went unnoticed.”

    While the announcement at The Lutheran Home was dramatic, Beard said there was a sense among people that the status quo couldn't go on.

    “With the building census struggles, the writing was on the wall,” he said.

    Beard said the current Lutheran Home building “will eventually be torn down.” He added that it's possible that the Lutheran Home Association will build something else there — some facility that provides a service to the elderly.

    Beard said three factors in particular worked against The Lutheran Home:
  • A trend for older people to try to live on their own longer while using home-health care services to do so.
  • Very low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from Wisconsin for services nursing homes render, including for medical rehabilitation.
  • No. 2 contributes to staff shortages because nursing homes can't pay competitive wages.
  • Beard said nursing home closures in Wisconsin have been on the rise — “almost as if they're being phased out.” At the same time, he added, more older people are opting for assisted-living facilities.