ELY- After the drought of funding for skilled nursing homes following the 2022 legislative session, the announcement that Ely’s Boundary Waters Care Center (BWCC) would receive $750,000 for …
ELY- After the drought of funding for skilled nursing homes following the 2022 legislative session, the announcement that Ely’s Boundary Waters Care Center (BWCC) would receive $750,000 for capital equipment was more than welcome.
The even bigger story, however, is that BWCC survived its own funding crisis over the last five months with the help of the Ely community and a helping hand from Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital (EBCH).
“I can’t thank Ely enough,” said Adam Masloski, executive director of BWCC. “Our 50 employees will continue in their jobs and our residents will be able to stay here close to their families because of this community’s outpouring of support.”
BWCC’s rough patch
As reported in the Jan. 20 edition of the Timberjay, BWCC faced its own cash liquidity crisis earlier this year, which threatened the center’s ability to fund its operations in the short-term. A combination of circumstances, including the failure of the Legislature to pass a nursing home funding bill in 2022, inflation, COVID-19 costs, and a nursing professional shortage forcing BWCC to hire temporary traveling nurses at higher-than-local rate of pay, all contributed to the shortfall.
Counting on the Legislature to fund nursing homes with a new bill in this year’s session, BWCC was faced with surviving until then. Masloski made his case to the Ely community in the local news media, at local government meetings, and in front of local community organizations.
Masloski’s appeals worked. Donations from the local community were approximately $60,000. Groups like 100 Ely Women Who Care donated to help BWCC but many in the community also helped out. “Most of the donations we received were from individuals sending in $25 checks.”
Masloski also credited EBCH. “The hospital has downplayed their contribution but we wouldn’t be here without their help … If the community and hospital had not donated, we would not be able to continue operating in Ely.”
The $750,000 for capital equipment isn’t the only money coming from the state. Several additional provisions to help nursing homes were part of a deal hammered out by lawmakers on Monday for $300 million for nursing homes. According to the elder care advocacy group, LeadingAge Minnesota, the funding will be incorporated into a bonding bill requiring a supermajority to pass both the Minnesota House and the Senate and a governor’s signature. The bill is expected to pass next Monday, May 29.
Masloski reported that local elected officials were key in securing the $750,000 and the additional funding currently making its way through the Legislature. “Senator Hauschild was integral in getting funding for BWCC,” Masloski said. “(St. Louis County Commissioner) Paul McDonald also helped … he called me and went to down to the Capitol, pushing to get funding for us.”
The additional nursing home funding includes:
• $300 million of the remaining surplus, split between $173.5 million for nursing facility grants restricted to a pre-approved list of operating expenses, 18 months of an additional $12.35 per resident per day to supplement current per-client funding, and $75 million for workforce incentives expenses like bonuses and employee benefits.
• $80 to $90 million in funding to be split by Minnesota nursing homes for workforce wages.
• A $100 million loan program passed in the Human Services Budget Bill, for the hardest-hit nursing homes in the state.
• $412 million in permanent funding for Elderly Waiver, which is also part of the Human Services budget bill. This allocation will benefit low-income seniors receiving care in assisted living, adult daycare, and other home and community-based settings.
The Legislature also set up a committee to study the current reimbursement rates for nursing homes, with a reporting date of January 2025.
“It was a nice injection of money and it will go a long way,” said Masloski of the package. He also noted that the way the Legislature set-up the current nursing home funding in a way that will help over the next one to two years, but that it wouldn’t solve the systemic long-term problems with financing nursing homes.
“They (the Legislature) threw money at nursing homes while not solving the long-term problems,” said Masloski. Those include the ongoing shortage of skilled nursing professionals, attracting those professionals to rural areas like Ely, and paying enough to be competitive in the healthcare job market.
Regardless, the new state funding will be enough to keep BWCC going. “We’re thrilled,” said Masloski. “We’ll be able to buy new equipment and our residents’ rooms have needed some updates for a long time now … up to now, we haven’t even dreamed of what to do.”