Scott County Nursing Center On Brink of Closure

By Benjamin Cox on September 7, 2023 at 12:08pm

The Scott County Nursing Center is nearing the possibility of closure.

The 49-bed non-profit facility located in Winchester has been county-owned since 1971.

Scott County Commissioner John Simmons says that multiple factors are causing the long-term care nursing home to be in jeopardy: “Ever since Covid, they’ve not been able to fill the beds in the nursing home. It really went downhill after Covid. They have a very hard time keeping staff because we don’t pay as well as larger outfits because we’re a county home and not privately owned. Being that we are county owned, we do not qualify for a lot of [financial] aid that is out there, too. The governor put out some kind of grant for nursing homes after Covid. We don’t qualify for it because we are owned by the county. They are the ones that will tell you to raise taxes if you need to do something. So far, lately, we’ve not been able to make payroll. We are trying to make it up through other funds. There was a tax increase passed last year that increased some money coming in for it, but it wasn’t enough. We are really hurting. When the money runs out that we’ve been pulling from on the side, which is Covid money and some other stuff – once that’s gone, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The county passed a 0.1% property tax bump to generate more revenue for the Nursing Center during the July 2022 primary. The increase was expected to generate approximately $100,000 in additional revenue.

Simmons says that since the facility is county owned and was established by a county referendum and is taxpayer owned, the county is not allowed to sell the facility to a private company to keep it open. He says the only option would be to close the facility.

Simmons says he is unsure if the facility can be sold by referendum of county voters.

Simmons, in the meantime, says he and the Scott County Commissioners are working on ways to make the facility more attractive for healthcare workers: “I just know it’s getting in a bad state trying to meet payroll and everything. We need that nursing home. It employs a lot of people here in town. Like I said, it’s hard to attract people to work here because we don’t provide health insurance or benefits like that. I’m working on trying to get some. We can’t seem to afford it to try and get better people to come here and work. Staffing is an issue and filling up the beds is the other. When it was first built, if the beds were full, it would pay for itself. With the changes and everything and cost increases, we can’t do that anymore.”

According to a ProPublica Report from July 2023, there were 3.5 nurses on staff per resident with over 48% turnover in a year’s period. According to the same report with reporting obtained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on standard inspections of the center, the February 2023 report listed 4 separate deficiencies giving the facility a D-to-F grade. The same report also said that from August 2021 to July 2023, the home had received over $4,500 worth of citations by IDPH for missing certain requirements imposed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Simmons told the Winchester City Council that the possibility of increasing the county’s tax base, which hasn’t been done in several decades, may help levy enough taxes to keep the facility afloat in the future. As of right now, he says the Scott County Commissioners are attempting to explore every avenue possible to help the facility stay open.