Country Winds Manor is closing

—Patty Elwood by Jan. 6, Donald Lundak by Feb. 5
CRESCO - The Board of Directors of Country Winds Manor (CWM)  made the hard decision of closing its doors at a special meeting on Oct. 31. 
The Patty Elwood Center (which focuses on patients with dementia) will close in 60 days, per Iowa Code, which is  Jan. 6 and the Donald Lundak Center (which is a memory care assisted living) will close Feb. 5, although both will likely close sooner as family scrambles to find a suitable home for their loved ones.
Administrator Sandy Chilson was told about the closure after the meeting, while the rest of the staff (48 individuals) and residents’ family members were told a week later, on Nov. 7. 
On Nov. 9, family members met at CWM or by Zoom with representatives from state agencies, included Long Term Care Ombudsman, Disability Rights Iowa, Dept. of Inspection and Appeals, Iowa Medicaid Enterprises and CWM and Regional Health Services of Howard County administration. 
They were given a list of facilities in a 50-mile radius and a CCDI (Chronic Confusion or a Dementing Illness)-credentialed list for those with extra special needs.
“Our staff is busy contacting facilities, faxing and emailing referral packets and having phone conversations with families and other providers,” explained Chilson.
Financial issues
CWM has experienced severe financial challenges, starting with COVID, and the problems escalated from there.
Due to the pandemic scare, the prior management company chose to discharge the Donald Lundak Center (DLC) residents, forcing it to close in October 2020 and was decertified by  in October 2021, when it also terminated its contract with CWM.
“When RHS stepped in as a managing partner in November 2021, it started the process of recertifying the Donald Lundak Center,” explained Chilson.
It was recertified and opened on April 1, 2022, but experienced only a small growth rate. Currently, there are only two residents who will need to move.
The Patty Elwood Center (PEC) also experienced a decline in residents after COVID, but was doing well at the time of the closure announcement. “We had a waiting list for the 24 beds. We just got two residents from Postville after that long-term care facility closed last month,” Chilson noted.
COVID also caused nursing shortages, so traveling nurses had to be hired to fill the empty spots. Those costs could be upwards of $100 per hour for a registered nurse.
“The cost of supplies is also exponentially more expensive. Even for our two-person family, I can see how much more expensive food is at the grocery store. We were feeding 26 people, and the reimbursement rate hasn’t gone up,” Chilson said.
Also during COVID, all health care facilities, including long-term cares, had to purchase more PPE and other supplies associated with sanitizing the buildings.
Despite extending operations for over a year, assembling a new staff and re-opening the Donald Lundak Center, current market conditions are forcing the closure due to lack of financial viability. Past debt, agency costs and stagnant reimbursement rates have created an unsustainable financial condition.
Members of the community and CWM staff gave a valiant effort to raise funds to supplement its income. 
• The Howard County Board of Supervisors allocated $200,000 to the facility in November 2021.
• An RHSHC staff member held a bedding drive. 
• During COVID, local seamstresses donated hundreds of fabric masks to all care and medical facilities.
• Chilson and others contacted local, state and federal legislators to try to get some of the COVID money that still has not been spent, hoping some of that could help save CWM. That didn’t work.
• Since July, Chilson has been writing grants to get financial help or donations, but those have a distribution date too far in the future to save the local long-term care facility.
“We left no stone unturned,” she said. “We had a lot of support from RHS. We were meeting weekly with the CFO, Brandon Brevig, to keep on top of things. We tried fund-raisers, but those raise $5,000, and we need a lot more than that.”
Now what?
Family members are already looking for a new care facility. Staff are looking for different jobs.
Chilson said, “I have been working in long term care since 1994. At this point, I am considering all options for future employment.”
RHSHC CEO Robin Schluter told CWM staff members if they apply for a job at RHS for a job they qualify for, they will be given an interview. Iowa Workforce Development has been in touch with CWM. 
“Every facility I have been in touch with has been very considerate. A facility in Rochester even called to see if we need help,” Chilson said.
The CWM property, per protocol, will go to those with a secured interest per the legal process.
Country Winds is not the only facility in the state having financial problems. Word around the long-term care industry is that since COVID, 14 facilities have closed in Iowa; three have given notice, including CWM; and possibly 20-30 are hoping to hang on until the end of the year.
This does not bode well for the senior population. Between 50-100 years ago, the women of the family did not work outside the home. They stayed home and took care of the kids and their elders. 
Now both parents work outside the home and don’t have the monetary means or medical training to take charge of someone who needs 24-hour care.
Country Winds Manor is just a small facility with 26 residents. What will happen when more and more care centers close over the next few years? Where does that leave you and me when our time comes? Who will be there for us?

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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