Guest commentary: County nursing home is solvent facility
By ALAN KURTZ
In recent weeks, there have been a couple of letters to the editor that ask a number of questions about the Champaign County Nursing Home, including "Why tolerate a facility that's losing money?" I want to address this question and others to dispel this and other concerns. The Champaign County Nursing Home is, in fact, a financially solvent skilled nursing facility that provides quality care to the people of Champaign County regardless of their ability to pay.
What do I mean by "regardless of ability to pay"? CCNH has always accepted individuals who qualify for Medicaid. In 2012, CCNH cared for over 33 percent of our community's Medicaid residents who required skilled nursing care. In 2012, on average, CCNH had 120 Medicaid residents in the building. The next highest facility averaged 82 Medicaid residents. Why is this important? Privately owned nursing homes, both for-profit and not-for-profit, cannot, and will not, take on a high number of Medicaid-eligible individuals because of Medicaid's low reimbursement rates. CCNH, on the other hand, has never limited the number of Medicaid. Without CCNH, there would be a shortage of available Medicaid beds in the county.
CCNH is not losing money. Yes, there is a tax levy, approved in a referendum by the residents of Champaign County. CCNH has not required any additional financial assistance from Champaign County for over five years.
It was asked, "Why is the census down?" Census is not down. The average census in 2008 was 169 and fell as low as 150. In 2012, the census hit all-time highs of more than 210. But census always fluctuates. The number of admissions has shown growth especially over the past few months, a clear indication that CCNH has a good reputation, not a bad one.
"Turnover of employees"? "Qualified people"? "Lack of employees"? CCNH has reduced the usage of temporary staffing agency by 60 percent over the past six years. That means CCNH is successfully hiring and retaining employees.
"Poor management"? All of the above questions or opinions about CCNH are unfounded and untrue. Management Performance Associates has been working with the Champaign County Nursing Home since 2008, providing management services and oversight to the home's operations. The resources provided by MPA under this arrangement have led to significant improvements in the county nursing home's operations.
The budget has been balanced; the accounting system is far more transparent; staffing has improved as indicated by the decreasing need for contract nursing services. With nearly 200 residents and all of their family members, and with a staff of approximately 200 employees, running a skilled nursing facility will always pose challenges and opportunities for improvement.
Champaign County embraces those opportunities and hopes to continue providing this invaluable service to the residents of the Champaign County for as many years in the future as it has provided this essential service in the past.
Alan Kurtz is chairman of the Champaign County Board.