Hospital board votes to shut down Long Term Care

Hospital board votes to shut down Long Term Care

May 10, 2017

By Fred Arnold Telescope publisher

The message last week was very simple and pointed.

“We can close one or possibly close both,” Republic County Hospital board member Dr. Cayle Goertzen told a crowd of approximately 25 people last week, referencing if Long Term Care was not shut down, the hospital itself could be placed in jeopardy.

During Wednesday’s special meeting the hospital board made the unanimous decision to close the nursing home portion of the facility as soon as possible. Official notification was made this Monday, and some 20 residents will now be forced to look elsewhere for long term care. They have 60 days to relocate.

Under terms of the closure, the hospital itself will be allowed to retain eight beds for swing bed intermediate care for long term patients. The Telescope contacted Belleville’s other long term facility, Belleville Health Care Center. Officials there said the facility had possibly 15 beds available.

‘‘Trying to avoid’

Hospital board members said the decision to close was not made lightly or quickly. “This is a subject that we have been trying to avoid for the last five to seven years,” board chairman Deb Hadachek said. “But an $880,000 negative impact “But an $880,000 negative impact to the bottom line makes this an issue we just can’t ignore any longer.”

She was referring to the cost reimbursement formula the hospital receives for caring for Medicare eligible patients, which makes up more than 70 percent of the hospital’s revenue each year. Medicare does not pay for operating expenses of residential nursing facilities since they are not considered acute care.

Hadachek noted there are always alternatives but none of them are realistic or financially feasible. “We could separate long-term care operations from the hospital but it would still have to be funded by the county taxpayers,” she said. Hospital CFO Barry Bottger said in order for the hospital to continue to operate Long Term Care, taxpayers would need to pay at least 12 more mills in property taxes just to cover that $880,000 loss in reimbursement. “And that would be for just one year,” he said.

‘We have no idea how that might change after that.” The hospital receives six mills from property taxes — that amounts to about $360,000 per year — and an estimated $550,000 from a one-cent sales tax. Some current Long Term Care staff will remain to staff the intermediate care unit or other positions in the acute hospital. Hospital administrator Blaine Miller said the closure may affect other departments like dietary and maintenance. Intermediate swing bed Miller said every effort will be made to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible. He said the hospital and board are keenly aware of the impact faced not only by residents but in staff as well.

The eight intermediate swing bed residents will be retained from the current residents in Long Term Care and will remain in one wing of the unit. All patient rooms in the acute care wing will become private rooms. The change from Long Term Care to intermediate care means the hospital will stay below its 25 total patient limit at any time, which is dictated by the Critical Access Hospital designation for Medicare funding.

“There’s a lot of things we don’t know yet on how things might work,” Miller said. “It’s just a fact that there are so many changes going on in the health care system that I can’t stand here today and say we’ll be fine.” Still, the decision made out of financial necessity was not easy. Longtime board member Barry Childs said it was a bitter pill to swallow.

“I can tell you this board has done everything possible to save long term care,” he said. “It sickens me to have to make the decision we have to today. “But the rules have changed. The federal government has changed. Everything has changed.”


It’s time to step back, take a deep breath

By Fred Arnold Telescope publisher

By all accounts, this last week and heading into this week just hasn’t been a very good one for our community, or so public perception would have it.

Mid-week last the Republic County Hospital Board made the tough decision to close Long Term Care.

I can tell you it was a very hard decision for board members. The vote was not cast without emotion.

But sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing.

The day after that, interim Belleville Police Chief Jeff Smith tendered his resignations. Social media lit up with the hows, whys and “expert insights” of conspiracy theories. The department is undergoing a transition period and honestly this resignation could not have come at a worse time. But it is what it is.

Community ire has also been raised over what to do about the WPA-built bathhouse in the city park. This issue in and of itself is quite polarizing. People are either for keeping it or for getting rid of it. “History must be saved.” “Things change and time marches on.” I have been a part of conversations regarding this building when people have left mad because of an opposing view.

The first thing we need to do as a community is stop and take a deep breath. Move one step back or to the side and look for a different view, another perspective. A respite if you will. There are a lot of really great things going on in our community, more good things than bad in fact. But sometimes everyone encounters a few bumps in the road. That’s where we’re at with a few issues.

But the worst thing we as a community can do now is be divisive. Pointing fingers, making innuendos and fueling the fire of speculator on social media or in the coffee shop really serves no purpose at all. One of the signs of a healthy community is being able to discuss issues, get involved in problem-solving and seeking a positive outcome. I truly do believe that there is a solution to every problem area if we are willing to look at the matter objectively and come together for the common good. It involves give and take on each side.

For now, yes, we do have to deal with things like long term care for this area, where law enforcement is headed and addressing historically significant buildings. But before we go off halfcocked let’s step back and think about things from an objective angle. Knee jerk reactions seldom produce good results.