Consumers launch initiative to grow nursing home bed capacity in their county

A consumers group that began with women frustrated at finding suitable nursing home spots for family members is now partnering with a county health department for an assessment of the community’s skilled nursing needs and resources. 

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in central Illinois will conduct an assessment that 

Cathy Emanuel, founder of Advocates for Nursing Home Care, hopes will lead to a reversal of nursing home closures and bed losses. Emanuel recently learned about the scope of the problem facing the long-term care community when she struggled to find a facility for her since-deceased husband.

“So many people have been touched by this kind of problem in their family,” Emanuel told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Tuesday. 

The 2021 Long-Term Care Inventory from the state Department of Public Health, the Illinois Health Facilities, and Services Review Board found that Champaign County has a projected need of 721 nursing home beds by 2024. But while 710 beds existed last year, the country will lose 412 soon due to the loss of three facilities, Emanuel said. 

University Rehabilitation Center, formerly Champaign County Nursing until it was sold in 2019, announced in April that it would be closing, resulting in the loss of 243 beds. Another facility — ClarkLindsey’s Meadowbrook Health Center in Urbana — is downsizing from 105 beds to 50. Local news reports also indicate that two other nursing homes in the county that were sold in 2018 have closed. 

“There’s a real problem,” Emanuel said, noting that she and others in similar situations formed a support group that turned into a series of “secret shopping” and interviews with nursing home owners and operators, hospital officials and others to understand the issue. 

Emanuel has a professional background in strategic planning and business development. She said the needs assessment from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is the first step in developing solutions that she hopes will include the opening of a high-quality nursing home. The assessment, which she said could take three to six months, will include a survey, interviews and focus groups with providers and others. 

“This shortage is detrimental not only to those needing long-term care, but also to those needing inpatient rehabilitative care after hospitalization,” a press release from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announcing the assessment said. “The shortage will also have an impact on Medicaid bed availability in the county. By placing Medicaid patients outside of the county, an additional burden is placed on individuals with fewer financial resources.”

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