SOLDIERS GROVE - A crowd of 75 to 80 people gathered in the dining room of the Sannes Skogdalen Nursing Home to hear a presentation by a team from North Shore Healthcare, the company scheduled to purchase the facility soon.
The five-member team was headed by North Shore Healthcare Regional Director Eric Everson. On hand for the presentation were 75 to 80 people, including nursing home residents and their families, nursing home staff and members of the Soldiers Grove community.
Everson began by reviewing the recent history at the nursing home. He noted a month ago the residents and staff received “sad news” that the facility was closing and they would have to find other places to live and to work.
That’s when North Shore Healthcare stepped forward to take a look at taking over the facility and keeping it open.
Everson told the assembled group that North Shore Healthcare came into existence a few years ago and now owns 50 nursing homes mostly in Wisconsin with a few in Minnesota and one in Minot, North Dakota.
Accompanying Everson on the trip to Soldiers Grove last week were Marcie Livingston and Shelly Szczerbinski from marketing, as well as Troy Oestreich from human resources. Also on hand for the meeting was Jim Lane, the interim administrator at Sannes Skogdalen who has been in the building for the past couple of weeks.
Lane said the meeting was a way to try and relieve some of the anxiety that the staff, residents and members of the community were experiencing.
Lane said he thought most of the residents were happy living at Sannes Skogdalen and his job was to make sure they could continue living here. The administrator said he had worked in nursing homes for 47 years mostly in Minnesota and was now 70 years old.
Lane praised Sannes Skogdalen as “a very nice facility.”
“I’ve been all over the country,” Lane said. “And, this is a good one. You get that feeling right away.”
The interim nursing home director said that at a resident council meeting he attended he definitely came away with the feeling the residents were happy with the care they were receiving.
Lane told the group that the nursing home being rated a five-star facility is a “very big deal” and having a “no-cite survey” on the most recent state inspection was very impressive.
In the 47 years I’ve been in this business, I’ve only seen two no-cite surveys.
Marcie Livingston briefly addressed the group describing how she found out North Shore was buying the facility in Soldiers Grove and some of the whirlwind activity that has taken place in a few weeks time.
“On behalf of North Shore Healthcare, I just want to say we are excited to be here and be a part of the process,” Livingston said.
Eric Everson then opened up the meeting to questions.
The first question was an obvious one about taking over the operation.
“When exactly are you taking over?” someone asked.
“As of today, we are providing the management,” Everson explained. “We expect the sale and transition to be completed later this month. We’re hoping it will be done by the end of the month. We do not have a concrete day, but we expect it will be done within the next month or two.”
Everson noted that Community Health’s Rita Moore had been the acting interim director of Sannes Skogdalen because the last director was on leave.
Everson indicated that Bob Scallon, a Boscobel resident, was the new director of nursing at Sannes Skogdalen.
“My mom moved in and we love this place,” a local resident said. “But I wonder why you’re going through this big expansion and doubling your size. Can you manage this growth? I’m interested in what specific changes you have in mind to stop this place from operating in the red.”
Everson said that with all the expansion North Shore Healthcare there are a lot of people coming on as well. He pointed out it’s not just buildings being added in the expansion the people come with the building. He indicated that Troy, Marcie and Shelly all joined North Shore Healthcare after working for Fortas, which North Shore acquired.
Everson also addressed why the massive expansion happened so quickly. He noted it’s not that North Shore set out to acquire so much so quickly, it’s just that opportunities came up as large chains decided to get out of the business.
Everson said he had worked with Golden Living and in an independent nursing home, but he is very enthused to be working with this group.
“As to why it happened so fast, it’s because that's the way the cards were dealt, that’s why it happened so fast,” Everson said. North Shore added more than 20 facilities in a deal closed on October 1.
As for specific changes, Everson explained it would be a matter of looking at what will make the local nursing home sustainable. He believes it is necessary to bring the census up by filling more beds. He also feels staffing levels must be addressed.
Everson believes that North Shore will be able to use their larger buying power to save money on food purchases, pharmacy and medical supply costs.
“We can leverage the larger group to get better prices,” Everson pointed out.
Everson acknowledged the building might need some work, but maintenance has been good. He noted the nine-acre property “looks like a park and it’s taken care of by one guy.”
“We can’t tell specifics of what’s needed until we can get in to assess the situation,” Everson said.
“You are indeed the answers to some prayers,” a longtime local resident with her parents at Sannes Skogdalen told Everson.
In answer to another question, the North Shore official acknowledged there are many changes in long term care and what’s happening today is very different from what happened 20 or 30 years ago. He noted there are changes in senior housing. There are assisted living opportunities and resources for homecare.
“There are a lot more options,” Everson said.
Whether assisted living options might be offered in Soldiers Grove are things North Shore will evaluate, according to Everson.
However, he pointed out that with baby boom demographic headed toward old age there will be a large demand for all kinds of services—including a much larger demand for skilled nursing facilities.
Everson also noted a trend in nursing homes for custodial care and short-term rehabilitation.
A woman with a mother living at Sannes Skogdalen noted that 34 people now live at the facility, but asked what the capacity of the home was.
Everson said the facility had a capacity of 50. With census in the low 30s he indicated that it should move into the 40s to become more sustainable.
In answer to another question, Everson addressed the problem with lower Medicaid payments. He acknowledged that Medicaid reimbursement was short of covering the real cost.
Medicaid reimburses at a rate of $150 to $165 per day, but the cost on average is $180 to $200 per day. Everson was quick to point out this does not mean nursing homes can’t survive. In addition to private pay patients, nursing homes get reimbursement from Medicare for therapy provided. These other payments can help to subsidize the overall operation.
However, Everson said that Medicaid reform could greatly help. He noted that Medicaid reform in Minnesota is helping facilities in that state.
A man told Everson that his sister had not done well under the care of another nursing home and that she just kept getting worse.
Now his wife is in Sannes Skogdalen and he wonders what kind of care will she get.
“Have your homes improved?” the man asked.
Everson said that half the homes in North Shore Healthcare just came to the group on October 1 and in 30 days it was hard to say if they had improved. However, a number of homes that have been on board for six to eight months and a few of the homes that have been with the group for a couple of years have seemed to improve.
“From what I know, my impression is that they have definitely improved,” Everson said.
The man with the wife in Sannes said that he was wary of the situation.
“I’ll be watching you,” the man said.
Another woman with a mother in the facility questioned whether more nurses were need. She asked if the nursing home currently had an adequate number of nurses.
Everson said North Shore was in the process of recruiting staff.
“I heard you were not fully staffed,” the woman said.
“I can assure you that we’re working at meeting everyone’s needs,” Everson told the woman.
“Well my mother will be 100 in a couple of months and I want you to take good care of her,” the woman said.
At that point, Bob Scallon the new director of nursing, rose to address the group.
“I’ve been a nurse for 25 years,” Scallon said. “It’s a privilege and an honor to care for your loved ones. And, I just want to say that these are the best CNAs that I have ever worked with. They keep the nurses on the ball.
The quality of care this facility provides is so good, I would want my own mother or father to be here,” Scallon said. “But if we miss something we will be accountable. We will admit our mistakes, but we will treat the residents like our loved ones….I can assure you that your loved ones are taken care of.”
Another woman spoke on behalf of her mother, a nursing home resident, about Bob Scallon.
“My mother said she’s glad Bob is the DON (Director of Nursing) because he’s the one that can get things done.”
Everson emphasized the confidence he had in North Shore Healthcare and the partners, who are running it.
“I knew who the partners were,” Everson said. “I knew their reputations and I’m ready to work for this group and leave that as my legacy.”
Another person with a mother at Sannes asked if there was anything she needed to do in notifying Social Security about checks or anything else that she needed to do when the facility changed hands.
Everson said that everything should roll over and there should be no need for residents or families to do anything.