After a lengthy discussion, commissioners decided to discontinue public health homecare at their April 10 meeting. Clients and homecare employees will be notified of the county’s intention to transition to private companies over the next few months. The target date to complete the transition is July 1. During this period home health staff and clients will have time to select another homecare agency.
Homecare services include skilled nursing (injections, wound care, blood draws), home health (personal care, very minimum housework) and homemaker services (cleaning, laundry, errands). Erickson was misquoted in the April 9 issue of the Fillmore County Journal. Her comment was that “homemaker” services are hard to find in Fillmore County, not “homecare” services as it was reported.
Commissioner Duane Bakke asked Jessica Erickson, director of nursing, to provide weekly updates during the transition process. The motion to discontinue homecare services was approved. Commissioner Marc Prestby voted no.
Prestby zealously argued that by discontinuing homecare services we will be driving costs up for clients. Private entities will not provide a service if they can’t make a profit. They have to make a profit to stay in business. He continued, “One of the core functions of government is to serve the vulnerable.” These services allow the elderly to stay in their homes.
The cost of homecare services provided by the county have not been entirely covered by revenue sources, including state, federal, and private insurance. In 2016 and 2017 the homecare services deficits were covered by levy dollars ($63,000 and $79,000 respectively). Commissioner Randy Dahl asked Erickson what the county cost would be in the coming year if the county continues to provide homecare. Erickson didn’t have a way to estimate that.
County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman noted Erickson has contacted three private companies, adding there are more private companies that could provide services. She said it is important to distinguish between public health and light housekeeping. There are some programs that help with homemaking. A lot of programs will not pay for homemaking services. Erickson explained private companies are willing to take on home health aide and look at some homemaker services.
Erickson noted home health aide visit numbers are so low compared to home making visit numbers. Private companies are not generally willing to take on just straight homemaking clients. For this reason she said she can’t guarantee everyone will get the homemaking service they are getting now, adding we do not want client care to be affected. She commented that her department does an assessment every year on all of our case management clients.
All three of the private agencies are willing to consider homemaking if the client has home health aide already in place.
It was noted that CDCS (consumer directed community supports) provides an option which allows the hire of family/friends or a private agency for homemaker services. Other resources for homemaking services could include volunteer groups or private pay.
Vickerman insisted we have an amazing staff; they all care about their clients. County homecare staff will likely find employment with private agencies that take on the additional clients. A job fair will be set up for the home health aides with three local homecare providers. Clients will be able to choose between the providers and may follow their current caregiver.
County supports Preston for proposed veterans home site
Vickerman handed each commissioner a ballot to vote for his choice for the location of a proposed veterans home in Fillmore County; Preston or Spring Valley. Chairman Mitch Lentz noted that efforts for a veterans home have been ongoing for five or more years. The county board has been encouraged to make a decision on a particular site. Each city provided a packet/information to be used by the commissioners to make a decision.
Bakke thanked both cities for their presentations. He proceeded to point out that Preston has been working on this since 2013 and is the location of the Fillmore County Veterans Services Office, the Servicemen’s Club, and the State Veterans Cemetery. Lodging and tourism activities are available. Sixteen letters of support were included in the packet, 12 of those from veterans organizations. Bakke added that the proposed site is on a bluff top, a beautiful location.
Dahl said he was glad to represent a county that values veterans and would support either city.
Lentz commented that a veterans home located within the county will be a huge benefit to veterans. He favored Spring Valley because the proposed location of a home would be incorporated in the growth pattern of the city.
Commissioner Gary Peterson addressed the veterans and other people in attendance working to get a veterans home in the county. “I am proud of you that have been working on this.”
Bakke, Prestby, and Dahl voted for Preston. Lentz and Peterson voted for Spring Valley. A motion to approve the resolution in support of a proposed veterans home to be located in Preston was approved unanimously by roll call vote. Lentz thanked everyone for the work they have done and the work that will continue to be done.
The resolution makes it clear there is no statutory or legislative language that requires the county board to make the decision and the county has no legal decision making authority over either municipality. Preston and Spring Valley expected the county board to make the decision and agree to abide by the board’s decision.
Bakke reported on a meeting of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs that occurred on April 9. There are 1,058 federally designated beds in Minnesota; currently there are 824 leaving 234 as the current bed availability. Federal grants for construction of new homes provide up to 65% requiring at least a 35% match. Demand for grant funding exceeds available funding. There is a rolling priority list. If Minnesota were to provide construction funding for a new home during the 2018 session and if included on a 2020 priority list, a facility could be completed by 2025.
The estimated cost for a new 72 bed facility is $62.5 million ($40.7 million federal and $21.9 million state). This does not include predesign costs, land, and infrastructure.
Other business in brief
• Alcon Construction, the low bidder, was awarded two bridge replacement projects, one each in Sumner and Carrolton Townships. The bid was $317,927.56, which is under the engineer’s estimate of $387,609.
• The Minnesota Annual County Boat and Water Safety Grant agreement renewal for 2018 was approved ($2,838). Sheriff Tom Kaase noted the funds will be used for education and enforcement.
• A quote not to exceed $4,918 from Winona Heating and Ventilating, Inc. was approved for courthouse roof preventative maintenance.