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Heritage of Elmwood moving forward with new look

Heritage of Elmwood will soon begin its remodeling project to update its facility to become more competitive with new nursing homes being built. Sara Tischauser / RiverTown Multimedia

Funding has been finalized and plans are progressing to start the Heritage of Elmwood remodel by spring.

The nursing home, which opened its doors in 1973, will be remodeled for $1 million, $550,000 of which will come from Heritage of Elmwood and the other $450,000 from a 20-year loan at 4 percent interest that the Village of Elmwood took out for the nursing home.

This loan, said Elmwood Village Clerk Amy Wayne, will be repaid by Heritage of Elmwood and the Village itself will not be making the loan payments.

"We structured the loan for them [Heritage of Elmwood] but they will pay it back," said Wayne.

The initial plan for the money was to remodel and add an assisted living facility onto the current nursing home. However, at the Heritage of Elmwood Board of Directors meeting on Jan. 16 information came to light that may affect decisions concerning this project.

The plan had been to remodel the now vacant Alzheimer's wing into an assisted living facility, said Heritage of Elmwood Board of Directors President Dolores Radtke.

At the meeting, Grace Lutheran Communities Chief Operating Officer Mike Christensen (Grace Lutheran manages the Heritage of Elmwood) said it may be more difficult for them to take Medicaid patients in an assisted living facility due to recent changes to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Facilities who want to take in Medicaid patients and be reimbursed are facing heightened scrutiny and requirements.

Christensen said under this heightened scrutiny, an example of needs that must be met is every bedroom door has to have its own lock. Licensing as a Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) will become more difficult.

From an article on the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it will not consider a facility a HCBS to get Medicaid funding if it is part of a facility providing inpatient treatment such as a skilled nursing facility. It goes on to state that if a facility meets this criteria "it will require additional review to overcome the assumption that it is not home and community-based."

The Board of Directors is still discussing what will be done with the old Alzheimer's wing and what all the options are. The Board decided to meet again in early February for further in-depth discussion and a decision on what should be done.

The loan and nursing home money will help fund the nursing home's remodeling, which Heritage of Elmwood Board Secretary Jamie Reitz said is necessary in order to compete with other newer facilities being built.

"The goal is to be competitive to market," Reitz said.

The plan is to update the facility since it hasn't had many changes since it was built in the 70s.

"We need to do cosmetic changes," said Radtke.

Another part of the remodeling will be to make more private rooms.

"When built it had four people to a bathroom, two people to a room," Radtke said. "Now everyone wants private rooms."

Radtke said the remodeling of the nursing home is not the first change they have made with Heritage of Elmwood in recent years. When longtime nursing home director Rod Gilles retired, the Board decided to allow Grace Lutheran Communities to manage the facility.

Under the management of Grace Lutheran Communities, Radtke said, improvements and changes were made to keep the nursing home from losing money.

"We had a year of losses, but no real big losses," Radtke said. "They [Grace Lutheran] changed that around."

Some of the changes made were cutting back on the number of employees to be more consistent with what was needed for the number of residents and going with a new food supplier for the meals. Wayne said they were able to save money because they were able to get Grace Lutheran's discount on food services, human services, human resources, nursing services, therapy, training and payroll. With the new management, Radtke said the nursing home is moving in the right direction.

"We are not losing money," Radtke said. "We are on the right scope."

One of the unique features of Heritage of Elmwood is that it rents space to Mayo Clinic so patient care is closely available to residents.

"They can go from nursing home to clinic without going outside, not too many places have that," Reitz said.

The clinic is a benefit to not only residents of Heritage of Elmwood but for many people.

"It's an asset for community and non-community members," Wayne said of the Mayo Clinic branch. "It is being used by many, many people, not just residents."

Wayne said Heritage of Elmwood has to start drawing money from the loan the Village took out on behalf of the nursing home within four months from the time the loan was finalized on Jan. 3, 2018.