Emergency Medicaid Hike Comes Too Late To Keep Greybull/Basin Nursing Home Open

in News/Health care

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Greybull Police Chief Bill Brenner had hoped that his mother might be able to stay in the facility she had called home for the last few years.

The Bonnie Bluejacket Nursing Home between Greybull and Basin had been “home” for Brenner’s mother for the last six years. But when word spread that the facility may have to close because of financial constraints, Brenner started looking for other options.

So did other families, it turns out. And by the time Three Rivers Health (which operated and subsidized Bonnie Bluejacket) finally received word it would receive an emergency Medicaid increase for each resident, nearly half of them had already secured other housing.

So Oct. 14, Bonnie Bluejacket closed its doors.

Financial Constraints

In September, Three Rivers Hospital administrators held a community meeting about the struggles facing Bonnie Bluejacket and its subsidizing hospital. 

Options to keep the doors open included receiving an enhanced Medicaid reimbursement, which would temporarily cover the gap between income and expenses.

But Rick Schroeder, CEO of Three Rivers Hospital, told Cowboy State Daily that the announcement itself caused a chain reaction that resulted in the closure of the facility.

“After we announced that we were going to investigate whether or not we could keep it open, about half of the people who were there in the care center had family members that started looking for other placement opportunities and had already accepted other placement opportunities,” he said.

By the time the hospital received word from the state that it would be receive an enhanced rate, “any gain that we would have gotten from the state was lost because of those that were leaving,” said Schroeder. “And so the writing was pretty much on the wall at that point.”



Residents, Staff Scatter

Because Bonnie Bluejacket is in an extremely rural part of Wyoming, its residents and staff are generally locals.

“This is people’s parents, grandparents, and they want to be able to put them in a place that’s close, where they can come see them on the weekends or every day for that matter,” said Brenner. 

But when the facility closed, other arrangements had to be made.

For Brenner, that meant moving his mother into the Wyoming Retirement Center down the road in Basin.

“Luckily, we got her close,” he said, noting that she was one of nine Bonnie Bluejacket residents who were able to be placed nearby.

“She had a tough time adjusting,” he added. “But now that she’s adjusted, I think she’s doing better.” 

Schroeder said that most of the members of the staff found employment elsewhere, although they were able to offer jobs at Three Rivers to some and a severance package to the rest.

“Thirteen were displaced,” he said. “Four stayed, and nine chose to go.”



Expenses Vs. Income

Schroeder said in September the hospital was receiving about $183 a day per resident, but costs were $305 per day.

That’s why last year the nursing home cost Three Rivers more than $900,000 over the revenue generated by the facility. 

But with the costs of everything required to keep that facility open increasing, and with the Medicaid reimbursement staying relatively flat, Schroeder said that unless a nursing care facility like Bonnie Bluejacket has many beds, there aren’t enough residents to spread the required-by-regulation overhead around to show a profit.

Schroeder told Cowboy State Daily in September that by subsidizing the nursing home, necessary money to keep the hospital afloat was diverted, which put the hospital’s funding at risk. 

“This is the only hospital within about 30 to 35 miles in any direction,” said Schroeder. “And so we feel like our primary responsibility to our community is to keep a hospital and an emergency room open and running.”

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