Woodland Village Gillett to close

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Concerns cited about Medicaid underfunding

Warren Bluhm, wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com

Most residents of the Woodland Village Nursing Center in Gillett are moving to the company’s Suring location, with some choosing to go to Oconto. All staff members have been offered jobs at the other centers. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

The Woodland Village Nursing Center in Gillett is being closed in a consolidation of services, the company confirmed this week.

Most of the approximately 20 residents of the 35-bed center will be transferred to Woodland Village Suring, with some choosing to go to Oconto, board member Mark Charlton said Monday. The Gillett staff members have been offered positions at the other Woodland Village facilities.

“We are going through a well-outlined legal process for closure of the Gillett facility, which will in turn allow us to focus our ongoing efforts to maintain care excellence at our five-star facilities in Oconto, Suring and Our Home Health Service,” Charlton said in a news release and follow-up interview. “Our administrator in Gillett is also the administrator in Suring, so we are maintaining excellent continuity with our residents.”

The move should be completed within 60 days, he said.

Woodland Village owns the building at 330 Robin Hood Lane, and it’s possible the facility will reopen later as an assisted-care living facility, Charlton said.

At Thursday’s Gillett City Council meeting, Mayor James Beaton said the center’s closing is a loss for the community.

“I hope whatever they’re planning on, it continues to serve the elderly, even if it’s in a different format from what they’re currently doing,” Beaton said.

Charlton said that although the consolidation is the best thing to do for stability of these particular facilities, many concerns exist within the long-term care provider community about the availability of funding for nursing homes.

Care providers for some time have been concerned about a lack of adequate Medicaid reimbursement and what he called the state’s front-line caregiver workforce crisis.

“Wisconsin’s Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes simply don’t cover our costs, and the ability of facilities to cost shift to other payor sources like Medicare and private pay becomes more and more limited every year,” Charlton said. “The bottom line is that if we can’t offer competitive wages to caregivers, (long-term care) facilities won’t be able to compete with other employers.”

Woodland Village remains financially strong, but the funding and workforce issues are a concern for Gov. Tony Evers and the Legislature to consider as work proceeds on the 2019-21 state budget, he said.

Wisconsin’s caregivers and facilities have been able to maintain quality measures compared to other states, but “chronic under-funding has consequences,” Charlton said. He cited statistics that say one in five caregiving positions remains vacant, and 28 skilled nursing facilities have closed since 2016 — including eight that have already been announced this year.

About 80 percent of a facility’s costs are determined by labor, he said.

“The practical reality is that you can’t get a machine or a robot to comfort your grandmother with dementia, or provide critical post-surgery therapy to your grandfather who’s recovering from a broken hip,” he said. “It takes talented, dedicated caregivers. What caregivers do costs money. They have value and deserve to be valued.”

Evers on Tuesday announced a Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving that “is charged with analyzing strategies to attract and retain a strong direct care workforce, finding strategies to support families providing caregiving supports and services and improving the quality of caregiving in Wisconsin.”