Even though Americans are living longer, the changing paradigm in long-term care, as more potential patients opt for home care, along with stricter admission requirements and lower reimbursements, has resulted in Lincoln Health System’s decision to consolidate Lincoln and Donalson Care Centers.
As a health care provider, LHS continues to be committed to providing high quality care to the citizens of Lincoln and surrounding counties, said officials last week, adding that a continual review of plans of plans and a constant awareness of ever changing market trends helps to ensure that commitment is fulfilled.
The consolidation affects 22 residents who currently reside at Lincoln Care Center, located at 501 Amana Avenue. All the 22 residents will be relocated to Donalson Care Center, which officials said has ample space to accommodate the new patients.
“Lincoln Care Center has been struggling with many issues that have made daily operations challenging,” said Health System CEO Candie Starr. “Nursing home resident census has been declining due to stricter admission criteria by Medicare and Medicaid, and this has made taking great care of our residents in two separate buildings very difficult.
“These factors along with the building’s age and need for repairs and updates have impacted our decision to consolidate,” Starr said. “Our residents and our staff deserve appreciation for their dedication and patience.”
Lincoln Care Center opened in 1959 with 122 patient beds, but currently only 22 are being utilized. The large building consists of two floors, two elevators, and 50,816 square feet. Several areas of the building’s roof are in need of repair or replacement, with estimated repair costs totaling more than $1.1 million. The building’s large footprint and aging HVAC system equate to a utility bill that exceeds $150,000 annually.
“The health system administration and Board of Trustees have not come to this decision without careful consideration of all options,” said LHS Board Chairman Anthony Taylor.
“The growing operating cost for needed updates and repairs to the building, low patient census, and increasing regulatory compliance has made the continuation of operating two care center facilities too expensive,” said Taylor. “This decision allows us to focus on what we do best and that is to provide compassion and quality care to our patients.”
Unlike other similar communities, Lincoln Health System consists of a Medical Center, an outpatient rehabilitation and wellness center, an ambulance service, a Home Health & Hospice agency, and a Care Center with skilled nursing, long-term care, and short stay rehabilitation.
From a strategic standpoint, the health system is well positioned to continue to effectively address and anticipate the ever changing requirements in health care, but as an independent community owned rural health facility without the advantage of the economy of scale, the challenges ahead are plentiful. To remain viable and provide health care services at an affordable price, the health system must continue to look for and implement demonstrated cost savings in the future.
The consolidation of residents and staff to one building will allow the care center to focus its resources on this one location. Joining together the nursing, rehabilitation, activities, social services, housekeeping, maintenance, and other support services from the two locations will remove redundancies and enable staff to more efficiently work together to improve the resident’s daily life and activities.
This move will also allow for the consolidation and/or reduction of equipment as well as reduce staff travel time and mileage costs between the two buildings.
“Resident wellbeing and quality of life is the top priority for us,” explained Vicky Groce, care center administrator. “The consolidation has not been an easy or rash decision for us. We have been weighing the pros and cons and ultimately came to the decision to consolidate as the best way to ensure long term success of maintaining skilled nursing and long term care in our community.”
Care Center staff and administration have already begun preparing Lincoln Care Center residents and their families for the transition by arranging facility visits and integrating LCC patients into the resident activities at Donalson. Care Center administration will continue meeting with the residents and their families and, through careful planning, expect the move to be a positive change for all.
Employees affected by the consolidation will continue to work in a same or similar capacity at Donalson Care Center.
Lincoln Health System will not be selling Lincoln Care Center or closing the location, officials said, adding that the building will be used by the Health System as a training center, classroom area, meeting and office space, and storage. Each of these alternate uses saves the Health System thousands of dollars; off-site record storage alone is expected to save approximately $50,000 annually.