Paynesville Press - July 31, 2002

Community Perspective

Long-term care continues to evolve

By Willie LaCroix

The mission of the Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS) is to provide integrated health care in a community-based, quality-conscious, caring environment. Our logo is "Caring for Life."

I believe what these two sentences tell us is that we are to provide a continuum of care from birth until death for all patients and residents who use PAHCS.

During the Minnesota Legislative Session of 1983, legislation was drafted, placing a moratorium on the nursing home industry in the state, which stopped the addition of nursing home beds in Minnesota. The legislation was enacted, as there were excess nursing home beds throughout the state, even though certain areas of the state were short of beds and other areas had a glut.

Even with the moratorium, the excess bed issues were not resolved. During the past five to seven years, alternatives to skilled nursing care have been built and, due to cost, payors, families, custodians, etc., have opted for such alternatives. During this time, skilled nursing facilities have been poorly funded, not only for operation costs, but also for capital improvements.

In 2001, the Minnesota Legislature passed what is called the "bed closure" bill, in which licensed nursing homes could de-license beds (thus reducing available beds). Facilities that did would receive $2,080 per bed annually, applied to their existing rates.

In addition, the Legislature also increased the amount of monies for capital improvements to licensed nursing homes and offered several grants for the purpose of transitional studies to other types of services. Grants were also available to help organizations make that transition.

When the Evangelical Good Samaritan Society and the Paynesville Area Health Care System looked at their missions and what we had to work with as far as facilities and services, it was obvious that if we were to continue to meet our missions and compete in the skilled nursing home marketplace, changes would have to be made. We had several meetings in which we looked at working together, but eventually it became obvious that bringing the three facilities together under one organization was the most workable and prudent way to accomplish the types of services, efficiencies, and facilities that would be required for the next 10-20 years.

PAHCS and GSS negotiated a purchase of both the Good Samaritan Care Center in Paynesville and Hilltop Good Samaritan Center in Watkins by PAHCS.

The results of this purchase by PAHCS will allow the three facilities to use existing bed closure monies, grants, and moratorium exceptions, and efficiencies of operation to meet their mission. The Koronis Manor has received a significant moratorium exception, which will help provide for private rooms in the next two to three years. Washburne Court (as the Good Samaritan Care Center was renamed) has received a study grant in the amount of $13,500 and a transition grant in the amount of $250,000. We will be looking at an additional grant for the Hilltop Care Center for the purpose of developing a dementia unit within the facility.

The timetable to accomplish all of these projects is approximately five years.

Has this whole process been difficult for all involved? Yes. Will the remaining processes and projects be less difficult? No. Will the effort by the residents, staff, communities, and board of directors during this time be worth the finished services? Yes.

During the past generation, the needs, the expectations, and the way finances were handled dictated how long-term care was delivered. The "baby boomer" generation changes dramatically how a system such as PAHCS will deliver long-term care in the future.

"Baby boomers" will be more aggressive in their selection of a facility. The criteria will most definitely be based on such things as private rooms, computer-ready rooms, individual showers, and small areas to congregate with family and friends.

Deliverers of long-term care that do not evolve into the next generation of long-term care facilities will not survive, as we continue to see a decline in the number of needed beds in the state of Minnesota.

Along with this trend for upgraded skilled facilities, there will be demand on the industry to provide multiple levels of care, from independent living to sophisticated skilled care. To truly provide "Caring for Life," PAHCS needs to offer all these alternatives.

Would you like to participate as a Community Perspective writer? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 to express interest and get included on the schedule.

Willie LaCroix is the CEO of the Paynesville Area Health Care System.

Would you like to participate as a Community Perspective writer? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 to get scheduled as a writer or e-mail him at

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