Manager promotes adding dialysis for county nursing home

URBANA — In an ongoing search for new revenue, members of the Champaign County Nursing Home Board of Directors on Monday approved investigating establishing a renal dialysis service at the nursing home.

The proposed hemodialysis service, which would be staffed by a licensed vendor contracted by the nursing home, would be offered in an area that once provided child care.

Providing the service would cost about $300,000 in capital improvements at the facility, but it eventually could be a revenue stream for the cash-strapped nursing home, said Michael Scavotto, the CEO of St. Louis-based Management Performance Associates, the manager of the nursing home. The $300,000 cost to remodel the nursing home would come out of the facility's current $1.1 million cash balance.

Operationally, the service would break even if it had an average of 5.4 patients a day, said Scott Gima, vice president of MPA.

Members of the nursing home board said they wanted to see some evidence that a dialysis program for patients with diabetes and other kidney problems would be profitable.

"I'm absolutely in favor of moving forward with looking at this. I think we need every card in our hand right now," said Ron Bensyl, a Republican Champaign County Board member who is also is on the nursing home board. "Given the amount of the investment and our cash flow position right now though, I would want to see some information from other nursing homes or something like that. I would be pretty hard-pressed to throw 300 grand at a hope and whim that we could pick up one or two patients."

But nursing home board member Lashunda Hambrick added, "If we don't do this, someone else is going to do it and beat us to the punch. But I would definitely want to see some of these other places share their information with us."

Scavotto said the nursing home is working with three prospective vendors to provide the service.

Meanwhile, board members got a new batch of bad news about the nursing home's finances. Its average daily census slipped to 190.7 in March, below the target of 195. And although expenses are under control and improving, Scavotto said, the revenue outlook is gloomy.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a 9 percent Medicaid rate reduction, but even if the cut was reduced to 5 percent, it would mean an approximate loss of $294,000 to the nursing home, Scavotto said.

"Five percent is anyone's guess. Who knows what it's going to be," he said. "At this point, it's academic. There's going to be a rate cut."

And there likely will be longer delays in Medicaid payments to nursing homes "because the state just doesn't have enough cash," Gima said.

"We're going to continue to work on securing financing. But this is going to get ugly," Scavotto said. "We're expecting a repeat of last year where we did not get paid on time. We're not alone. It's everyone."

But the longest payment delay last year, he said, was 120 days.

"It could easily double next year," he said. "That is not a good bellwether for the state of Illinois. But it's something we've got to deal with. And the only way we can do that is to stretch out our payables and basically finance this on the backs of the vendors or hope the state comes up with a financing vehicle."

Members of the county board continue to oppose the idea of raising the county's property taxes in order to increase the annual subsidy that nursing home would receive.

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