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St. Croix County nursing home inching closer to profitability

If the financial picture continues to improve at the St. Croix Health Centers nursing home, officials joke that new Administrator Frank Robinson might have a statue erected in his honor.

He laughs at the thought.

Since taking the reins at the facility in May, Robinson has been working with staff members and the St. Croix County Board to implement a five-year plan to erase the operations red ink without sacrificing the quality of care provided.

Robinson reported to the Health and Human Services Board on Nov. 18 that progress is being made.

The nursing home has recently been a drain on the county budget to the tune of about $1 million. Funds from the county levy have been used to keep the nursing home operating.

Despite the financial challenges, St. Croix County voters last year convincingly approved a referendum urging elected officials to continue to operate the nursing home even if taxpayer money is required to close the funding gap.

After Robinsons arrival, the facility adopted a strategic plan that calls for the nursing home to be self-sufficient by 2015, Robinson said.

"The best thing we can do is get everybody on the same page," Robinson said. "So we formalized the plan. Its been great. Were all working toward the same goal and theres no deviation from the plan."

The first step toward more revenue was to open a 16-bed rehabilitation unit within the existing facility to cater to clients who need short-term care.

The nursing home has also contracted with a professional rehabilitation company to provide ongoing services to short-term and long-term residents.

Facilities that offer extensive, seven-days-a-week rehabilitation services often realize a higher Medicare patient census, Robinson noted, thus increasing revenue.

Its paid off in a few short months. The Health Centers average Medicare census has doubled to 11 to 14 patients.

The higher census is also the result of the nursing homes quick response when health care providers call looking to place patients.

The goal for 2009 is to reduce the amount of money the nursing home receives from the county levy by 30 percent (about $320,000 total).

Robinson hopes the nursing home, which is licensed for up to 72 beds, will continue to diversify its services and revenue sources in the coming months.

"The goal is to get us off the levy, and I think its doable," Robinson said. "Now its my job to make it happen."

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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