Nursing home makes plans to rehabilitate profits

The Barnwell County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is hoping to step up its rehabilitative services.

With the addition of 16 beds being added to it in the future - the facility can offer more physical, occupational and speech therapy services for Barnwell County residents and turn a healthy profit.

An architectural floor plan by the Lexington-based CMJW of the 16-bed 9,650- square-foot addition were previewed at the March 3 Barnwell County Council meeting.

Originally, Barnwell County Council approved building a $1.8 million assisted living facility to be paid for by a USDA grant.

However, after Agape did an evaluation of the assisted living facility - it told Council it would be a losing situation for the county financially, said Barnwell County Councilman Keith Sloan.

So Council then opted to build a $2.5 million, 16-bed addition to the 44-bed facility.

"The reason we changed is because we had to add more beds in order to be profitable," said Barnwell County Councilman Thomas Williams.

That's because state funding for an assisted living facility is low and Medicaid payments pay far less than Medicare, said Agape CEO Scott Middleton.

Middleton said Barnwell County would have sunk dollars into the assisted living facility and relied more on private and Medicaid patients.

But with the 16-bed addition, the nursing home can take more patients for short-term, rehabilitative care covered by Medicare, Middleton said.

"Medicare pays at a higher rate because it is for people getting better and it covers nursing services and therapy. Medicare pays around $450 (per day), and $150 is taken out for therapy and drugs - but it still nets $300," said Middleton. "Medicaid is about $140 (per day) and only covers fixed costs."

Despite it sounding like a dollars and cents game, all parties involved insist what it comes down to is providing quality care for Barnwell County residents.

"The focus is not on money - it's about providing services," said Middleton.

Currently, the majority of the BCNRC patients are long-term.

"It might sound bad (pushing for more short-term patients), but when you make more money you can take more long-term patients in for care," said Kiffany Perlote, the marketing director for BCNRC.

Currently, there are about 10-12 Medicare residents in the facility and Middleton said Agape plans to move and expand Medicare patients to the 16-bed addition while freeing up the 44-unit for long-term care.

Quality of care is the nursing home's main concern and the staff there should be recognized for their contributions, said BCNRC board chair Tom Cuny.

"Our staff does everything they can possibly do to give these people dignity in their last years," Cuny said.

He said the nursing home's staff have shown a dedication, responsibility and selflessness that goes above the ordinary.

"Some of the staff come in on their own time to celebrate birthdays with residents," Cuny said.

Supervisors have cut their own hours so caretakers wouldn't have to and the nursing home recently passed a DHEC audit with flying colors, said Cuny.

Financial problems were the focus on BCNRC last year during some Council meetings.

The nursing home's previous management company had left the facility in a less-than-perfect financial position, said Cuny.

"It's like you move into a new apartment and are left with the phone bill," said Cuny.

At the Council meeting, Middleton reported a loss of $10,000, stressing that while any loss is bad - it's better than previous losses which have been between $30,000 to $50,000 a month.

Last year, Council paid out $340,000 to cover losses, said Sloan.

Rises in employee health and liability insurance have also contributed to the financial situation, said Middleton.

Medicaid cuts have also caused the nursing home to absorb costs, said Perlote.

Middleton said the nursing home in February saved about $14,000 by reworking the staff schedule.

But both Sloan and Williams say they are pleased with the direction the nursing home is going and report its doing much better financially.

Council is currently looking into switching the USDA grant to cover the 16-bed addition as well as letters of approval from lending institutions and exploring a revenue bond.

Middleton said the certificate of need documentation is complete.

"You have to expect days in the process," said Cuny.

Sloan said Council is highly committed to the nursing home and its 16-bed addition which will prove to be beneficial for the county and the people who live here.

"We want people to look to the nursing home first (for rehabilitative services), instead of going out of town," said Williams.