Guest Commentary | Improvements at nursing home have been dramatic

Guest Commentary | Improvements at nursing home have been dramatic

By CATHY EMANUEL

The residents of the Champaign County Nursing Home deserve excellent care, delivered with dignity and compassion — and I'm proud to say those moral absolutes are being accomplished, even as elected leaders weigh their options for future ownership of the facility.

Whether or not the sale of the nursing home is ultimately voted to be pursued, I believe the county board made a wise move by reversing itself last week and extending SAK Management Service's contract to continue their operation of the facility until at least July 31, and as a member of the Champaign County Nursing Home Advisory Board, I know SAK stands ready to continue longer if the need exists.

Much information has been shared regarding the historic shortfalls of the nursing home and its current status, and while some anecdotes have been true, other circumstances have been distorted or misrepresented. I have had a front row seat for several years, and since SAK was contracted in July of 2017 when the facility was facing monumental challenges to accomplish its mission, significant progress has been made.

It's been less than a year since SAK was given the keys, and SAK has produced substantial advances for the residents of the nursing home along with noteworthy improvement of the publicly owned facility's financial position.

But the importance of their work goes far beyond dollars and cents — they have absolutely improved the quality of care for our residents. I want to clearly state the fact that we have been seeing improvements at CCNH since 2014.

Since that time, the facility has had a 2-star overall rating, has had one of the highest staffing ratios and is currently one of only two facilities in Champaign County to have a 4-star staffing rating. In fact, there are quality-of-care enhancing services that have existed at CCNH for many years that are not available in any other facility — the full-time on-site dental care and adult day care are prime examples.

Still, since SAK has assumed management, they have made quality improvements and have replaced temporary staffing with dedicated full-time hires, including 14 quality registered nurses. Related to this, they have greatly reduced the incidences of pressure ulcers, sometimes called bed sores.

When SAK arrived in 2017, there were 42 patients afflicted with this painful condition, but today there are fewer than five. This improvement is a direct testament to our outstanding, committed nursing staff.

SAK has also instituted a new restorative care program so our residents are helped to reach their full physical potential.

The benefit to patients is tremendous, and financially, this elevated level of care has increased our Medicaid reimbursement rate, which can be annualized to $200,000 of additional revenue based on this quarter.

Additionally, our federally assigned star rating is moving upward in all of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services indexes. We have reached the 4-star level in staffing and quality measures on a 5-star scale.

Since coming on board, SAK has been meeting with local hospitals to identify much-needed programs for patients transitioning from hospital care.

Recently, CCNH adopted a comprehensive respiratory care program with new equipment and staff training to enhance care for pneumonia, congestive heart failure and other pulmonary disease patients.

Lastly, one large point of pride isour updated meal service, which once was the subject of many complaints before SAK came on board. The meals have been radically improved by replacing the former vendor and instead hiring an in-house food service team.

SAK's work at the Champaign County Nursing Home is by no means done, but the improvements over a relatively short time have been dramatic. We look forward to SAK continuing service to Champaign County and dozens of its citizens who deserve exceptional, compassionate care.

We thank the county board for moving ahead with this management arrangement.

Cathy Emanuel is a member of the Champaign County Nursing Home advisory board.

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