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Nursing Homes In Western Wisconsin Announce Closures

2 Nursing Homes Cite Finances As Reason To Close Doors

Mike Fischer (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Nursing homes are strictly regulated, and often have tight budgets and difficulty finding workers. Sixteen nursing homes in Wisconsin have closed since 2015, according to Wisconsin Health Care Association, and now two in western Wisconsin are closing.

Dallas Care & Rehab in Barron County and Syverson Rehab and Health in Eau Claire gave notice to state officials in March of their intentions to close, citing low Medicaid rates as a reason.

Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature approved a 2 percent increase for nursing homes in the most recent state budget. And state Department of Health Services spokesman Claire Yunker said the average fee-for-service nursing home per diem has increased more than 14 percent since 2011.

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But nursing homes say they have difficulty covering their costs.

“The Syverson building has a very high percentage of Medicaid residents, and losses from the Medicaid program resulted in the inability to keep the building open,” said Grace Lutheran Communities CEO Michael Christensen, which owns Syverson and other facilities in the state.

State health officials say market forces could be contributing to nursing home closures. Long-term care in Wisconsin used to be dominated by nursing homes. Over the years, assisted living facilities have grown. They have fewer regulations and cost less to operate.

Even with competition, Christensen said their Syverson facility was nearly full.

We actually last quarter we were filling an average of 55 of the 58 licensed beds,” Christensen said. “So this was not your typical nursing home closing. It was not competition. It was that the state does not fund appropriately.”

Nursing homes have 120 days to relocate residents once the state approves their closing. There are more than 380 nursing homes in Wisconsin, according to John Vander Meer, executive director of the Wisconsin Health Care Association.