Local nursing home faces steep uphill fiscal climb

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ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) --- "80 percent of the county's assets are people, okay? They're not capital, they're people," said Winnebago County Board member Dave Fiduccia.

With residents and community members itching to hear the state of River Bluff nursing home, Tuesday’s advisory committee meeting addressed the elephant in the room head on.

"Our residents should not have to worry about where they're going to be going," said county board member Angie Goral.

Issues like employee retention and low incoming wages prove to be a major deterrent.

"It's the biggest cost; it's the biggest everything...is staffing,” said River Bluff administrator Sheila Storey.

As of today, River Bluff only houses 168 residents, a 22 percent drop from January 2017. The biggest hurdle, Storey says, is the lack of “experience compensation” that they can offer applicants, meaning someone who might have ten years of nursing work under their belt could be making the same salary as a recent nursing school grad.

"If I raise my staffing, I can raise my census, correct? Because, I can't bring people in if I can't take care of them. So, I have to have enough staff here, so it kind of has to happen at the same time,” says Storey.

While River Bluff is struggling fiscally, Goral says the security of its residents is a top priority.

"This has been here, a standing institution, for many years, taking care of our people who are in need of services, and the last thing that we want to do is put them on the street, they belong here, this is a home,” said Goral.

The nursing home is currently funded in various ways, through a separate property tax levy, patients insured by Medicaid and Medicare, along with those with private insurance.

With last year’s fiscal losses reaching 1.4 million dollars, board members say there are still significant steps that need to be taken before any decisions are made.