HURON – Violet Tschetter Memorial Home, a mainstay as a long-term care facility for 59 years, will close its doors permanently by May 10, the board of directors announced in a news release.
In a letter to the South Dakota Department of Health, board members said the facility was no longer able to sustain operations due to underfunding.
The cost of resident care greatly exceeded the state reimbursement under the state’s Medicaid program that many of its residents relied on, the board said.
Closure of the Violet Tschetter Memorial Home in Huron is in addition to other recent closures in Madison, Mobridge, Tripp, Bryant and Rosholt, according to the South Dakota Health Care Association.
Low Medicaid reimbursement was the primary cause of the closures in each case.
“We are in the midst of a long-term care funding crisis,” said Mark B. Deak, executive director of the association.
“For years, Medicaid has not been properly funded and we are unfortunately now seeing the consequences,” he said in a news release. “It is critical that the legislature and governor act urgently to address this crisis.”
There are currently 36 individuals residing at the Violet Tschetter Memorial Home, which has a staff of about 45 caregivers, support and operations personnel.
Laurie Solem, the facility manager at SunQuest Healthcare Center, said that she was sad to hear the news regarding Violet Tschetter.
“We have worked together with them for years,” Solem said, “even though you could say we were competitors. We always helped each other whenever we could.”
Solem said she has been in communication with the Violet Tschetter board and will meet with them next week to see what SunQuest can do to assist the residents, families and staff. “We have some space and will do whatever we can to make this easier for everyone.”
Solem also echoed the statement sent out by Deak.
“Most certainly this has everything to do with the medical reimbursement - mostly Medicaid - from the state,” Solem said. “It is just really, really tough right now with low reimbursement and with a shortage of staff. Many nights I wonder where we are going to find staff.”
She added that she is encouraged, that it at least appears that the problem is on the agenda of Governor Kristi Noem and that the issue may be addressed soon.
“For six decades it has been our privilege to serve our neighbors and their families,” the board of directors said on behalf of the organization.
“We have been blessed with the support of our town and region, with staff members, many of whom have been with us for decades, who have cared for our residents with skill and compassion, with board members who have freely given their time and talents and with residents and families who created a true community within our campus.
“It is heartbreaking to acknowledge that all of this must now be brought to an end. After years of efforts, however, the board and our management company do not see a way forward.
“Our focus will immediately shift to giving all possible assistance to our residents and their families in relocating to other facilities. We will work with the state Department of Health and other providers in this process. We will also work with our staff to help them find new employment opportunities.
“This news does not exist in isolation. Many facilities like ours are struggling in South Dakota and elsewhere. Our seniors need – and deserve – quality care that provides dignity and comfort, but the programs many older people rely on do not cover the cost of that care. Our hope is that our elected officials will find in this announcement common cause to address this problem for the benefit of our state and its residents.”
According to the association, Medicaid reimbursement for nursing centers is currently at such a low level that centers lose an average of $58.30 each day for each resident paying through Medicaid.
Statewide, costs of unreimbursed care total more than $66 million annually. A significant majority, 53 percent, of the total resident population in nursing centers relies on Medicaid to pay for their care.
This disparity fuels staffing challenges, including difficulty hiring caregivers and high turnover among nursing center staff.
If additional funding is not secured, more closures will almost certainly occur, Deak said.
“This closure comes just as legislators are working to finalize their budget for the next fiscal year,” he said.
“For the sake of our elderly and disabled residents, as well as their caregivers in nursing centers, I hope this latest closure will serve as the catalyst for adequate funding that is so desperately needed,” Deak said.