Clarkfield Care Center Administrator Paul Luitjens approached the Clarkfield City Council, at their most recent meeting, with the idea of laying away four to six of the nursing facility's 52 beds; due to the roughly 21 months of dropping occupancy and decreased revenues.
Luitjens informed the council that the Care Center was down about $164,000 in revenue this fiscal year compared to a year ago and this summer the facility's occupancy plummeted to 37 residents for an occupancy rate of 71 percent—which is the lowest occupancy Luitjens has seen since taking the post as the facility's administrator over 20 years ago.
Currently the facility is operating at 86 percent occupancy and Luitjens said that the winter months are usually high season for the care facility.
"We've had two, or three bad years since I've been here where we've lost money. We had one about four years ago when we decided to reduce the number of beds to where we're at now with 52."
Luitjens presented the council with demographic data from Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Lyon and Lac qui Parle counties that details the current and projected number of people in each county over the age of 75. The graphical data is similar across the four county area. The graphs show a decrease in the population over age 75 continuing until about 2015 when Yellow Medicine County should fall to just about 1000 residents over 75-years-old. From 2015 on, the graphs show a sharp increase (presumably from a glut of baby boomers set to reach that age bracket) in that age bracket for the four regional counties. By 2030 the number of residents in that 75-plus age bracket, according to the Yellow Medicine County demographic data, should reach about 1370.
"When I got here this facility was at 86 beds. During the 90s our population had a much higher number of residents over the age of 75. It's dropped since then and we've adjusted."
In laying away beds at nursing facilities, the state pays for each bed laid away and those beds can be removed for one to five years, explained Luitjens to the council. Luitjens didn't have the amount paid for each bed laid away at this meeting, but assured the council that the amount was much less then the facility would receive if that bed was actually occupied.
Luitjens said that he and the council needed to be forward thinking in this decision, saying "We've got to worry about where we're going to be at and what the community's going to need from us in the next 10 years.
"Right now we might need to layaway beds, but by 2025 we're going to need more senior care—whether that care comes in the way of beds at our nursing facility, or through assisted living and home care," said Luitjens.