Northfield Hospital keeping nursing home; possible assisted living addition.
The Long Term Care Center, which has been the subject of much discussion from the Northfield Hospital Board and staff this year, will continue to operate after the board voted so Thursday. In addition, the board agreed to enter into a development agreement with Yanik Companies for potential assisted living facilities on the hospital campus.
The decision comes after a few years of study from the hospital board, in conjunction with Yanik representatives, on the needs of the local senior community and the viability of the hospital continuing to run a nursing home.
‘”We’ve been looking at where we should be moving forward with senior care service for the future, as we only offer traditional nursing home services now,” Hospital Chief Operating officer Jerry Ehn said. “We found there is a need in the community for quite a few senior housing units (assisted living) and very specific memory care units. So what we’re trying to do is be a facilitator to these trends.”
Ehn explained that the board and staff agreed the nursing home should remain in operation, because there is a need there. Hospital President Steve Underdahl noted earlier in July that administration had heard strong feedback from the community in support of keeping he Long Term Care Center.
The viability of the nursing home was questioned by leaders, because the facility has lost anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million for several years, up until 2016 when state funding changes made up for much of the losses. Staff anticipates that more shortfalls from the nursing home are likely in the future, though.
According to the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there are three Northfield locations with federally certified nursing home beds available. 42 beds at Northfield Care Center, 101 at Three Links Care Center, and 40 at Northfield Hospital Long Term Care Center.
Losing the Long Term Care Center would’ve been a blow to the already limited availability of beds in the area, though the beds at Northfield Hospital are about $75-$100 more expensive than beds elsewhere in the community, according to the hospital’s senior care study.
That study also noted that the utilization of nursing home beds throughout the state of Minnesota is down significantly from previous years. The Minnesota Department of Human Service projects the future nursing home beds need to be below the projected number of licensed beds.
“Nursing home utilization rate continue to drop, even for individuals age 85 and greater, as seniors now have other options for receiving services,” the report noted.
Those trends led hospital staff and board members to believe the hospital should be considering different option for senior care. The Yanik-developed assisted living facility would provide just that.
Northfield Hospital would not own or operated the facility. In fact, it has not committed any dollars to the project. However, it has expressed willingness to allow Yanik to develop on 7 acres of the land the hospital leases from St. Olaf College (21 acres are yet to be built on).
Yanik will continue to work on design and development with the focus on ‘aging in place’ according to the Hospital’s Ehn. The hospital board will eventually need to approve the final design. The the city of Northfield and St. Olaf College will need to agree to the changes to the lease of land.
In the meantime, the Long Term Care Center will continue running and Northfield Hospital staff and board members will continue to consider the best care options for an aging society.
“We want to make sure we’re positioning ourselves or helping the community position themselves, as we continue to age,” Ehn said.