North Central Health Care closer to takeover of Pine Crest management operations
Board of Supervisors will consider whether to move forward at Aug. 20 meeting
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
Despite some opposition, a recommendation in favor of the management agreement between Pine Crest Nursing Home in Merrill and North Central Health Care (NCHC) was approved at the Lincoln County Administrative and Legislative Committee’s Wednesday, Aug. 7 meeting.
Michael Loy, CEO of North Central Health Care, stated in a letter dated July 31, 2019 that NCHC proposed that Lincoln County contract with NCHC to continue to manage Pine Crest long-term on behalf of Lincoln County.
“After diving into the possibility of a longer term relationship with NCHC, the Pine Crest Board of Trustees, Lincoln County Administration and NCHC all believe it is in the best interest of Pine Crest and Lincoln County to have NCHC manage Pine Crest starting in 2020,” Loy stated in the letter.
North Central Health Care, owned and governed by Lincoln, Langlade and Marathon counties, has provided an interim administrator for the Lincoln County-run nursing home since May 2019, following the retirement of the nursing home’s former Administrator, according to a release from NCHC dated Aug. 6, 2019. Pine Crest and NCHC agreed to a 90-day interim period this summer, in which NCHC agreed to provide a full-time on-site licensed nursing home administrator, staff and education support to the Board of Trustees, a review of operations and financial reporting, recruitment support in hiring a new Nursing Home Administrator, and a proposed 2020 budget.
“As part of the interim management agreement, NCHC also performed an analysis to determine how and if it would make sense for NCHC to manage Pine Crest on behalf of Lincoln County going forward,” the release states.
According to NCHC’s financial projects, Lincoln County would have to add more than $750,000 to its budget deficit in 2020 to continue to fund Pine Crest. Pine Crest had an end-of-the-year operating loss of $934,363 in 2017 and $646,772 in 2018. The 2018 loss would have been $1,284,759 had it not been for an unexpected payment of $804,966 from the state and a boost to Medicaid rates passed in the state’s 2019-2021 budget, Loy noted in the letter.
Pine Crest faces and end-of-the-year loss of $115,832 in 2019, according to projections at the end of June.
In the letter, Loy said NCHC could “ help to reduce the ongoing financial losses without changing major aspects of Pine Crest, as part of NCHC,” adding that the majority of financial challenges the nursing home currently faces are related to “pressures from the labor market and low Medicaid reimbursement.”
“By working together, NCHC believes we can change the future direction for Pine Crest. We project that by the end of 2020, we could reduce the structural deficit to around $200,000 and potentially eliminate the losses going into 2021. Most of these improvements would have no impact on direct care,” Loy’s letter states.
Loy notes that both Pine Crest residents and members of the community wouldn’t see much of a change with NCHC taking over management operations at the nursing home. The name “Pine Crest” and the staff would remain in place, the county would continue ownership of the buildings and the nursing home would still reimburse Lincoln County for debt related to recent renovations. Lincoln County’s oversight of Pine Crest’s operations would continue, with all major decisions regarding the nursing home still being the responsibility of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors.
NCHC and Lincoln County administration will be holding informational meetings with employees today (Tuesday, Aug. 13) at 6:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. A public informational meeting with the Pine Crest Board of Trustees is scheduled for 6 p.m. this evening at the Lincoln County Service Center, 801 N. Sales St., Merrill.
At its Tuesday, Aug. 20 meeting, the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors will review NCHC’s proposal and committee recommendations, and will consider whether to move forward to work with NCHC. The meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill.