Letter: Questions need for county homeVoters will have an opportunity on Nov. 4 to vote about the county nursing home. The St. Croix County Board decided Tuesday on this referendum question “Should St. Croix County continue to operate a public nursing home if property tax dollars are needed to fund its operation?”
By: Clarence Malick ,District 25 County Board, Hudson, Hudson Star-Observer
Voters will have an opportunity on Nov. 4 to vote about the county nursing home. The St. Croix County Board decided Tuesday on this referendum question “Should St. Croix County continue to operate a public nursing home if property tax dollars are needed to fund its operation?”
It took several months to word the question. It was spring when the board decided to hold a referendum, but left the wording open. Still, the wording could have been better, in my opinion.
For instance, the question does not address the need and cost for a new building. Several experts say the building has much deferred maintenance and is functionally obsolete. Estimates for a new building are $10-12 million, plus land. If an assisted living facility is added as a feeder to the skilled nursing care part to make a modern “campus,” add another $5 million, plus.
The question also does not address how long the county should operate a nursing home: until the subsidy exceeds $2 million per year? Until the youngest current patient leaves? Until this new building wears out?
Until the most junior employee retires? Perpetually?
The traditional nursing home concept is obsolete. National and state policy is to enable people to stay in their own homes or in assisted living, using nursing homes for short terms. A paradigm called “managed care” being introduced to St. Croix County this year is supposed to help people stretch their assets to provide more and better choices. The hospice concept has taken hold; my acquaintances choose to die at home. While our county elderly population is growing, that translates only roughly into a market for more nursing home beds.
Then there is the location. Just because the county nursing home is on the outskirts of New Richmond does not mean it must stay there. Analyses of the population served show that residents primarily come from a 16-mile radius; the same market could be served from a location anywhere between Somerset and Deer Park, between Roberts and the north county line. There is already another, private, nursing home in New Richmond whose owner plans to rebuild next to its assisted living building and the hospital. A study showed that the New Richmond market has too many licensed nursing home beds. The question does not give voters a say on the location.
Some supervisors wanted the question to indicate that property tax levy is not the only source of funds for operation. After all, in a recent report, county taxes subsidized $1,268,600 of the $5,883,930 total annual cost.
Anyhow, we now have a question. Let the debate begin.