SCRIBNER — Area families and Scribner officials are planning their next move after learning that Good Samaritan Society nursing home will close on Sept. 30 and that building and Elkhorn Valley Villa assisted living center will be sold.
Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, which owns both facilities, cited challenges related to the pressures of availability of residents and employees.
The nursing home, licensed for 75 beds, only has 24 residents with 40 employees, said Kelsey Mergen, administrator of both facilities. ELGSS has two buildings with assisted living units on Poppe Drive with 26 beds; however, the unit at 180 Poppe Drive is full with 13 units and has a waiting list with seven staff, Merken said.
Though a waiting list exists, the other building is empty, she said.
Mergen pointed out 800 senior-living beds are available in a 25-mile radius of Scribner. She also cited the challenge of being able to recruit enough staff to work at small-town senior care facilities.
“Financial pressures have made it impossible to continue providing our services,” Mergen said. “It’s ultimately difficult when you are in a rural community without a hospital.”
The nursing home’s closure will force family members to seek long-term care facilities in nearby towns such as Dodge, Hooper, West Point, or head to Oakland or Fremont. If employees cannot find new jobs within commuting distance of Scribner, the loss of those residents and their families could have an economic impact on the community.
Good Samaritan officials recently informed patients’ families and staff at two meetings, and Scribner Mayor Ken Thomas discussed the matter at this week’s city council meeting. He recommended that a committee be formed to gather information and develop recommendations for the council.
“I don’t know if we can keep a nursing home here, but I think we need to make an effort to gather information to see what we can do,” he said.
Other than Good Samaritan’s sites, Scribner Medical Clinic is the only other local medical facility. West Point-based Franciscan Care Services operates the clinic, along with St. Francis Hospital and St. Joseph Retirement Community’s assisted living units in West Point and is building a new 54-bed nursing home there.
Good Samaritan has 240 senior living centers in 23 states, with 19 in Nebraska, Mergen said. The society closed an assisted living center in Gibbon in 2015 and skilled nursing facility in Wymore in June because of occupancy and staff shortage challenges, said Nathan Schema, Good Samaritan regional vice president for Nebraska.
Schema noted senior facility providers are struggling with insufficient Medicaid reimbursement to cover the costs of care. About half of all Good Samaritan residents in Nebraska receive Medicaid benefits.
“The average Medicaid reimbursement is about $25 to $30 per resident per day short of what it costs to care for a resident,” he said. “All skilled nursing facility providers are watching the health care reform discussions happening in the Senate and House closely these days as any reduction in Medicaid funding would put extraordinary pressure on providers in Nebraska.”
Andy Fuston, St. Joseph Retirement Community administrator in West Point, echoed Schema’s concerns about reimbursement. As Lyons mayor, he met with Thomas, Council President Mike Baumert and Ed Howard, city clerk/administrator, Monday to discuss how the Lyons community coped with the closure of Logan Valley Manor in 2015.
The community was fortunate when the owner of an Omaha firm that specializes in hospice and physical therapy services, stepped forward last year to manage the facility for Lyons Community Foundation, Fuston said. Lyons Living Center recently passed its certifications and is open, he said.
“I feel for them and what they are going through,” Fuston said. “It’s painful for a small community to lose a large employer. I know exactly the anxiety it creates for the community.”
Matt Kruse, Scribner Pharmacy co-owner and Scribner Chamber of Commerce president, noted the pharmacy will be impacted greatly. He recommended that the city pursue an assisted living center in Scribner with Good Samaritan as the best option, adding Hooper and Dodge don’t have such centers.
Martin Koopman, Scribner Bank president, agreed to serve on the committee. He and Thomas said the use of LB840 funds for economic development would be a key tool to help the city in attract a new owner for Good Samaritan’s buildings.
Thomas envisioned the committee would start meeting soon to gather information and devise options.
Schema said inquiries have been received about the future of Elkhorn Valley Villa, but those buildings and nursing home haven’t been listed for sale yet. The society wants to see the assisted living communities serve the area for the foreseeable future as Good Samaritan has served seniors for 50 years, he said.
“Our goal is to ensure a seamless transition occurs as we hand over the keys to a prospective new owner,” Schema said.