Have to say I was disappointed with the Wipfli LLP Market Study Report presented at the joint meeting of the Valley Hi Operating Committee and Public Health and Human Services Committee.
From the hour or so presentation and discussion I distilled the following two recommendations to continue to attract lucrative post-hospital Medicare patients:
- single occupancy (private) rooms need to be made available. (These could be put in the lower level–a basement currently with a gravel floor that could be a walk out because of the sloop of the terrain.)
- the rehab facilities need to be updated.
The next biggest recommendation seemed to be to hire an architect to provide cost figures.
That leaves County Board members and the public with what I characterized as the Valley Hi “wish list.”
It totaled $6.7 million.
Not listed was the cost for single occupancy rooms.
Many times have I heard that consultants are hired by government to tell the governmental officials what they want to hear.
Mike Edwin, the consultant, had these last words to the Operating Board:
“If you have additional comments in there, changes you want, let us know.”
There were other suggestions including “a dementia care program, a stand-alone assisted living and memory care option or a unit in the nursing home for supported living facility.”
The consultant suggested that outside investors be sought, but advised that the country location would be a detriment.
Interesting was that the average nursing home is at 88-90% occupied, while Valley Hi is at 98%, the highest the consultant had seen.
That there is currently a excess capacity of nursing home beds in the county with two developers (Centegra and Alden) seeking an permission to build another 208 beds was interesting.
The lower level could also be used for adult day care, but “It’s unfortunate that you are here [too far from the population center].”
Questions indicated that services provided by Family Alliance would not be a good fit.
The catch phrase for the night was “continuum of care.”
The creation of that was recommended in case “Medicare and Medicaid blow up.”
County Board member Donna Kurtz said that a cost-benefit analysis was needed.
Mike Walkup wanted to know the desirability of Valley Hi’s location.
The consultant said Valley Hi had “been able to buck the tide.”
He then described McHenry County as “basically rural” to rolling eyes from those from the eastern part of the county.
Walkup also asked about the possibility to selling the nursing home.
Kurtz disagreed with Walkup, indicating the referendum approval in 2002 meant county taxpayers wanted the facility.
“The premise of selling this facility makes no sense at all.”
A member of the Operating Board commented about the “incredible lack of certainty” that the administration and Operating Board faced.
She said that “spreading out the risk, exploring these options makes a great deal of sense.”
Operating Board Chairman Jim Kennedy, a former County Board member elected as a Democrat, noted that McHenry County’s nursing home was not in the financial trouble that DuPage’s had, but “we may not be far behind.”
“I don’t know of any county nursing home doing any better than ours,” County Administrator Peter Austin observed.
Valley Hi Administrator Tom Annarella pointed to two options.
The first would be to do nothing.
He said that five years from now the odds were good that the facility would be “running into something.”
He talked of a lower level walkout.
“There’s no problem with filing our beds now,” but “younger, more high skilled Medicare persons want a more modern hospital environment.”
County Board member and Chairwoman of the Public Health Committee said that the rehabilitation part of Valley Hi needed modernizing.
Walkup wondered if the County should “say we’re going to be the last resort for the indigent.”
Previously, it had been discussed that private nursing homes had no incentive to take Medicaid (welfare) patients.
“That is our mission,” Kennedy stated emphatically, adding, “If we go all Medicaid, [it’s] almost undoable.
“We may be the only stop for Medicaid 5-10 years down the road.”
McCann noted that Valley Hi should be operated as “close to break even as possible.”
Micheal Rein, a member of the Public Health Committee, asked for the operating loss.
“$700,000,” Annarella replied, noting that this year that the balance was “not trending in the right direction.”
Discussion turned to the “surplus.”
Austin said the Operating Board had $18 million as a “target reserve.”
Monday, there was $41,660,082.57 in the Valley Hi bank accounts.
Annarella pointed out that every year the $18 million figure went up because of increases in operating expenses.
Operating Board Chairman Kennedy explained that Valley Hi was “currently not using any tax levy to operate the nursing home” and asked, “What’s the philosophy going to be?”
He argued that the surplus “proves businesswise that we’ve been a [tremendous] success.”
He wondered if the Board should be helping the most indigent or selling the nursing home.
Kennedy added that he thought that, if another referendum were held, it would pass.
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Democratic Party District 3 County Board candidate Dominique Miller attended the meeting.