There is some behind-the-scenes skirmishing over the future of the McLean County Nursing Home, but the County Board has now agreed to hire a consultant to look at the future of the facility.
Health Committee Chair Susan Shaffer said Tuesday she hopes a report on the home will come back next June.
"They are going to look at internal operations to make sure we are doing everything we can to maximize the resources we have and the income we get from it. They are probably going to look at the building. And they are going to do a needs assessment to see what are the needs of the community when it comes to the nursing home business," said Schafer.
Schafer said the home is running a steep deficit because the state is late paying and inadequate in Medicaid reimbursement rates. She said reserves are healthy, but will not last forever.
A motion to delay the vote on a consultant by sending the issue back for more study failed in a standup committee meeting before the full board meeting Tuesday. A potential effort to substitute a motion to immediately sell off the home failed to materialize. County Board member George Wendt was the only vote against hiring the consultant.
County Administrator Bill Wasson said in September that the present facility in Normal is aging and no longer configured in a competitive manner. Wasson has said the cost to replace the care center would be very high, and perhaps prohibitive.
County Board Chair John McIntyre has also begun to survey community leaders connected with the long-term care field about the direction of service in the Twin Cities.
Nursing home administrators have suggested the county explore a memory care unit. At least two such specialty facilities have or will soon enter service in the community. That is one of the ideas that lead to the hiring of a consultant.
Wasson and Schaffer have acknowledged many counties in Illinois have over the decades ended their nursing home programs. Schafer said the publicly owned care facility in Normal is becoming a rarity among counties.
"Actually a lot of them are getting out of the nursing home business. There have been issues in Champaign County because they built one in the last 10 years, and the same thing in Peoria County. In Vermillion County they actually had someone just come in and run their nursing home," said Schafer.
The Baby Boom generation retirement cycle is expected to continue increasing demand for skilled care for some time. But Schafer said more transitional and assisted living facilities are opening up, and the community needs to gauge the marketplace before deciding how the county nursing home fits into the picture.
She said she hopes for a February response for the consultant request for proposal. Board debate over the future of the nursing home will likely heat up next summer.
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