Wisconsin nursing home closures: how are local facilities staying afloat?

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- One by one, nursing homes throughout Wisconsin are closing, and right here in the Chippewa Valley is no exception.

"I've been a nursing home administrator for over 40 years,” says Jack Halbleib. “In the last 3 years, I've closed 3 facilities.”

The Fall Creek Care Facility closed in March 2017, impacting 36 residents and around 55 employees. In November of 2017, Strum Area Health and Rehabilitation closed its doors, which impacted 26 residents, another 5 in assisted living and around 55 employees.

Halbleib says factors that led to the closings included the changing landscape in options for seniors and the competition aligned with major medical systems.

“But the real difficult pill to swallow is that Wisconsin's medical assistance rate simply does not pay for what it demands in terms of the levels of care and the regulations that are involved,” says Halbleib.

Dove Healthcare, which has nine locations, and has added three in the last 18 months, doesn't anticipate closures, but says there are major headwinds in the industry.

Jeremy Kiley, regional director of operations at Dove Healthcare says, just as the rural nursing homes faced, the reimbursement rate is not meeting the cost of care. Dove Healthcare is combatting the challenge by providing care, like rehabilitation, for clinically complex patient.

“When you do that, you tend to get a higher reimbursement through the Medicare insurance programs and you need to do that in order to offset the Medicaid program that usually underfunds our care,” explains Kiley.

Halbleib says the closures are difficult on jobs and residents.

"It causes a great deal of disruption and a lot of it does not have a positive outcome,” he says.

Kiley says it's important to continue on and provide the community with the resources it needs.

“We have to be good at what we do, we have to provide quality outcomes,” says Kiley. “That’s going to be the name of the game in the future.”

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