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Closure likely for Morrison nursing home

Board to vote June 25; process could take a year

Published: Saturday, June 14, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
The Four Seasons Living Center inside Morrison Community Hospital will close in a year or so. "This is a decision we've been pondering over the past about 4 or 5 years," said MCH Director of Marketing and Communications Mick Welding said, citing insufficient Medicare reimbursements and state-mandated facilities upgrades as two of the many reasons.
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
The waiting area and dinning room at Four Seasons Living Center in Morrison Community Hospital. The MCH board will vote on the center's closure June 25.
(Michael Krabbenhoeft)
There are 38 beds in Four Seasons Living Center. With Resthave Nursing and Retirement Home adding 70 beds in its renovation, and Windsor Manor assisted living opening soon with 30 apartments and 10 Alzheimer's units, there no longer is a need for the 24-7 care that Four Seasons provides, said Mick Welding, MCH director of marketing and communications.

MORRISON – Although the official vote isn’t coming until June 25, the sun is about to set on the longtime Four Seasons Living Center inside Morrison Community Hospital.

The 38-bed nursing home, which has about 20 remaining residents, will shut its doors in a year or so for a number of reasons, said Mick Welding, MCH’s director of marketing and communications. They include too-little-too-late Medicare reimbursements, state-mandated facilities upgrades that simply wouldn’t be cost-efficient, and a healthy number of other local options for seniors.

“This is a decision we’ve been pondering over the past about 4 or 5 years,” Welding said.

“The primary reason is because Medicare reimbursements take 6 to 9 months, and it doesn’t reimburse us at the cost that it takes to be able to provide care for the residents.” In fact, he said, MCH, which is its own governmental agency and not owned by the city, has lost a little more than $800,000 over the past 4 years.

“And on top of that, there’s been some requirements made to upgrade facilities.” None of the requirements are unreasonable, Welding said, but with Resthave Nursing and Retirement Home adding 70 beds in its renovation, and Windsor Manor assisted living opening soon with 30 apartments and 10 Alzheimer’s units, there no longer is a need for the 24-7 care that Four Seasons provides.

Besides, half of its residents, he noted, come from outside the Morrison hospital district.

But there is a need for a hospital expansion, he said. “We keep adding new doctors and new specialties, and we’re running out of room.”

Engineers have been hired, plans have been drawn up, and negotiations with nearby landowners are on the horizon, but the hospital also needs Four Seasons’ space.

With that in mind, “we thought it was prime time” to close the nursing home, which is one of only two in the state still inside a hospital, Welding said.

“One of the things lenders look at is your cost report,” he explained. “They see that negative number [the $800,000 loss], and they’re reluctant to lend, or they lend at a higher interest rate, so that was our impetus.”

It was not an easy decision, hospital CEO Pamela Pfister said in a letter to nursing home residents, inviting them to a May 28 board meeting during which their questions and concerns were addressed.

“Morrison Community Hospital has operated its long-term care unit since 1974, and we have always considered the long-term residents and employees to be part of our hospital family,” Pfister wrote. “Emotionally, it has been very difficult moving forward with these discussions, and we are not taking the decision lightly.”

About 40 people attended the meeting to hear why the closure should happen, Welding said, and most went away understanding the situation.

If the hospital board on June 25 approves the closure, as expected, the process, which involves state approval, will begin. That should take about a year, maybe a little more, which should give the remaining residents time to find other options, he said.

The 12 to 14 staffers who are not retiring will be offered severance packages or transferred elsewhere in the system, he said.

No matter the process, Pfister said, if closure is approved, MCH will transition slowly, and will take the time to make sure all residents and their families are satisfied and comfortable with the decision.

“Please know that if we make the decision to close the unit, regardless of how efficiently we handle the closure, it is still going to be emotional for our staff, residents and their families,” she said in the letter.

After 4 decades of service to the community, in the end, it’s simply a matter of finances, Welding said.

“I think, truthfully, if we had the resources, we would keep going.”

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