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Paynesville Press - October 30, 2002

Washburne Court to switch to assisted living

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS) will be switching Washburne Court from a board and care facility to assisted living, effective the first of the year.

Notice has been given to residents, CEO Steve Moburg reported to the hospital board last week. Residents who have been identified as candidates for assisted living may stay; others need to be transferred to a skilled nursing home of their choice.

While the change to assisted living is moving ahead, Moburg told the board, their plans to renovate Washburne Court to make it more suitable as an assisted living facility have hit a snag.

PAHCS bid a project to renovate the building - refurnishing the rooms and hallways, adding individual air conditioning, putting sprinklers in the rooms (required by fire code), upgrading the bathrooms in each room, adding kitchenettes, and improving the areas for adult daycare - but only one bidder responded. While the construction bid was $551,000, the total project costs were over $100,000 more than the administration's estimates.

Consequently, instead of doing the project all at once, the administration will recheck the expected income from the facility as assisted living and use that to determine how much can be spent. It also will bid the segments separately in an effort to get more bidders.

Administration will also prioritize the areas of need to determine which parts of the project need to be done first.

PAHCS did receive a $250,000 grant from the state to transform Washburne Court to assisted living. As part of that grant, PAHCS does need to match 50 percent, or $125,000 towards the project. Since PAHCS would lose the state money if it doesn't spend it, a project of at least $375,000 is likely.

Moburg said they still hope to start renovation in December. It could continue for several months, even after Washburne Court opens as an assisted-living facility.

Assisted living means Washburne Court will offer residents three meals per day, have 24-hour nursing on the premises, and offer extra levels of care for residents (getting dressed, bathing, medication, etc., depending on individual needs, at an extra cost).

As an assisted living facility, Washburne Court would have 24 single rooms, rather than 46 nursing home beds. It will require less staffing, and PAHCS will transfer jobs to other areas of its operation and has reduced some positions by offering early retirement incentives, which have been accepted by 16 employees, said Moburg.

The state offers rewards for decertifying nursing home beds, which will help make this switch feasible, while also allowing PAHCS to offer a level of care not currently available in Paynesville.

For instance, on account of the closure, PAHCS will be able to increase its daily rate at the Hilltop Care Center in Watkins by $4.30 per day, Tom Kooiman, chief operating officer (COO) told the hospital board last week. Depending on occupancy, this rate increase could mean an additional $90,000 per year in revenue at Hilltop.

The nursing home bed decertification was also part of PAHCS's proposal to the state, which granted the system an exception to do $3.2 million in improvements at the Koronis Manor. Moburg told the board that the board may need to make a decision about this phase of the project by the end of June.

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