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First step in nursing home plan is to cut dependency on tax levy

Participants in a planning session for St. Croix County's nursing home intend for it to become self-sufficient by 2015 and to diversify its services to meet changing needs.

"The big first step," reported Nursing home Administrator Frank Robinson Tuesday, will be to cut $300,000 from the amount the facility receives annually from the county property tax levy. The plan is to implement that cut by the end of 2010.

That means setting up a 2010 budget that takes $300,000 less from the property tax levy than the $947,314 the home will get this year.

To reach that reduction, administrators plan to formalize a floor plan to maximize the number of private rooms at the nursing home, implement a marketing plan and, by the end of 2010, develop a rehabilitation unit for Medicare patients.

Robinson said 35 people -- including 15 board members, nursing home managers and the employees' union president -- participated in the two-day session facilitated by Duncan McDougall of Pathway Health Services.

The intent of the July 29-30 "visioning" session, held in the wake of a countywide vote to keep the nursing home open, was to develop a plan for long-term care for elderly and disabled citizens.

In the next decade there will be strong growth in the elderly population and a need for 19 to 37 more nursing home beds in the New Richmond market area, according to an analysis by LarsonAllen, a market research company. The study suggested there will be moderate need for "memory care" housing and good demand for independent housing or independent housing with services, especially for lower income people.

"The wild card is what is the intention of competitors in the market right now," said Robinson.

He said that while the county home has a reputation for high-quality services, employs a stable staff and has plenty of land for future use, the existing building has serious limitations and there is need for better communication among the board, management and staff.

Threats to profitable operation include aggressive competition, lack of funding, customers who want more choices and lack of a feeder system, reported Robinson.

"The set-up should be more of a hometown feel," said the administrator of the existing nursing home, which has a lack of private rooms, a distant entrance and ramps from one level to the next.

The second of the group's goals is to diversify and re-tool to assure that 10 percent or more of the facility's revenue will come from new services.

Participants also agreed to focus on high-quality services by working toward a "5-Star" rating, achieving 95 percent customer satisfaction as measured by surveys and maintaining good rankings on state and federal inspection reports.

The report also aims for a stable and motivated staff by improving staff communications and teamwork, implementing a staff survey and improving technical training and orientation programs.