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Washington County Board votes down extra funding to study future of Samaritan Home

January 11, 2023 – Washington Co., Wi – The Washington County Board voted 12 – 7 on Wednesday night on General Fund Transfer – Additional Studies for Future of
Samaritan Health Center.

A two-thirds majority vote was needed to approve $30,000 to fund a study proposed by the Ad-Hoc Samaritan Committee regarding the future of the Samaritan Home. Supervisor Brian Krebs was absent and chairman Jeff Schlief was on vacation.

Thirteen votes were needed to approve the additional funding and move the item forward. That effort missed passing by one vote.


The vote came after extensive discussion.

County executive Josh Schoemann, who had not been in attendance during the December meeting, briefly addressed the County Board before leaving the meeting because it was his son’s birthday.

“Up until COVID struck basically the Samaritan has held its own, and so has The Fields. The skilled nursing facility would lose money and the RCAC would make money, but generally speaking it was holding its own. When COVID happened that has completely stopped.

“In the last three years, cumulatively, we have lost $4 million and our current estimate is it is losing $500,000 to $750,000 a year.

“How do you offset those loses that are here today and will be here tomorrow.

“Do we expand our business units and get into something the private sector does, and that is those Title 19 beds. I plead with you to have this discussion to think, is this a business you want to be in?

Below is the livestream and notes are being added as the meeting moves forward.

Supervisor Kenneth Mikulec – I will be a no “There won’t be these facilities but there will not be the staff.”

Supervisor Linda Gurath – “I disagree with our county executive because I feel he’s putting the cart before the horse because he wants us to make the final decision before, we decide whether or not to fully explore all the options. With all the research we’ve been doing and the things we want to explore a workable option is starting to take form and I hate to squash before we get all the information we will need to actually see if it will work. We’re not saying the Ad-Hoc Committee will have the magic pill to solve all of our problems, but we are working hard, and we would like to be able to continue the job to the end.

A portion of Gurath statement: The Ad-Hoc Committee was tasked with doing an in-depth study of the options for the Samaritan, keeping in mind our end goal to provide complete information on each option to the full county board and to make a recommendation. Taking care of our elderly is baked into Washington County’s traditions for many decades. This committee is taking the task very seriously. It is clear we do not want to burden our taxpayers with the high cost of a skilled nursing facility. Therefore, any solution that would continue our tradition of providing services to our elderly population, needs to be self-supporting.

“I don’t want to be penny wise and dollar foolish. The Ad Hoc Committee was created to explore these options so to cut it short now saying, ‘Hey, do we really want to be in this business? Maybe we should just stop now? I don’t think it’s really fair to the Ad Hoc Committee or to the citizens of the county. In addition, the decision we ultimately make will affect not only the present people we have in the facilities, but it’s going to affect future Washington County residents with baby boomers all across the county and the world.

“I feel we should be thorough and doing our due diligence on this matter at this time while we have the opportunity, so I’m asking you vote yes to the resolution and allow us to finish the job to pursue this potentially very viable option.  Thank you.”

Supervisor Bob Hartwig –”We as a board have to take care of our elderly. There are people that will need the help and where will these people go.  Anybody got any answers.  At a meeting a number of years ago there was a foundation.com and that foundation would help get money for building or restoring, remodeling. Did anybody look into that.  I can’t see leaving the elderly and needy, where will they go? That’s my concern.

“Dodge County voted not to close their facility and they’re doing great. I’m on the fence but I want each and every one to think this over carefully before making decision.”

Supervisor Pam Konrath – I expected all strategies to be explored and explore the self-sustaining option. I’m surprised we’re having this major of discussion. I’m a nurse with a pulse on health care and independent living to assisted living and the natural design is to have a realistic campus as an option. Health care has changed to having acute care at home. We don’t necessarily need the long care bed, but other options are out there and there is a decreased need but exploring options from independent living all the way through.  The private sector is not meeting the needs. Once people are discharged there is a backup in hospitals because there are not beds available and that’s part of the staffing crisis all across the country. Our government did create this, but why not help.  Staffing is an issue and we do have sign-on bonuses, but we are at a heightened level and US RN’s are going to other countries, it’s a chess game to get the position with highest pay.”

Supervisor Mike Schwab – “I share concerns about competition with private sector. There’s been many people who mention constraints of time but when Ad-Hoc Committee was formed there would be a strong timeline. I was told you can’t go to church but not have compassion the rest of the week, if the Samaritan Home is the only form of compassion, we have then that’s a problem – as long as we pursue the status quo we won’t focus on solving the problem and looking for truly viable options.

“When you think of name of the Samaritan Home.  The Samaritan didn’t lobby the government for help, the Samaritan did it himself. When we look to govt. to solve problems, instead of looking how we can solve it ourselves it creates further problems.”

Supervisor Lois Gundrum – “I was particularly concerned about the comment of distrusting our accounting consultants. We’d didn’t distrust them before. I’m also concerned we are only serving 50 people. That’s one time, but over a span it is over 50 people.  We are talking about $30,000.  We’ve already spent $10 million on new generation housing, without a blink of an eye.  In the future there are more people who will need our care and we shouldn’t turn our back on them for $30,000.”

Supervisor Joseph R. Vespalec – “In the near future we will be asked to make a tough decision and we don’t have the information to make that decision. Are we doing our due diligence. I’m concerned about the speculation about the future. For $30,000 to have the Ad Hoc Committee to finish what we asked them to do.  We are making a decision on people’s lives and futures and people who need these services have paid their taxes.  Let’s support this and give the Ad Hoc Committee a chance to finish the job we asked them to do.”

Admin. Matt Furno – We still have the responsibility of placing today, I have 93 residents I have to find placement for if we close Samaritan Home.

Supervisor Denis Kelling – If we can’t secure the ARPA funds and if that goes away and the staff if you run down to a certain level does that put the county in jeopardy of the state coming in?

Furno – We have a myriad of regulations, and the state would be involved, and the county would receive forfeitures which would be high, and we would need to find and secure placement

Kelling – What I’m hearing, the longer this goes … there’s a lot of risk involved and if we don’t keep current staffing or run out of money…. we could be in deep doo doo.

Supervisor Linda Gurath – Are we going to be able to do our job as an Ad-Hoc Committee or not.  Either way we need an extension of time.  We realize the skilled nursing is going down and the need across the country is going out.  Assisted living is going up and we’re trying to look at options that are flexible. Discusses Title 19 funding. We will always have a population of people who can’t pay, and these people are truly helpless; they can’t fix this problem themselves. If you’re going to help anybody it is the people who truly need it.  We’re only asking to finish the job you gave us to do as the Ad-Hoc Committee.  We’re looking at staffing and we want to bring back to you how we can go forward. Hopefully we have something that could be sustainable. We want to be able to finish the job and give our best recommendation and then decide whether we should or should not be in the business. Just let us do the job, that’s all we’re asking.

Kelling – Are we voting on the extension and the $30,000 together.

Merry – Voting on the $30,000 and then we will go to the request for the extension of time.

Supervisor Jodi Schulteis – I think staffing is huge. We could build it and they won’t come because we can’t staff it. There is a huge staffing shortage across the nation. That’s the big picture as we consider everything.

Supervisor Krueger-Gundrum – I want to address the staffing issues. We don’t know where that’s going.  We should use ARPA funds for Samaritan, but we’ve taken that money and expanded it to many areas. The $30,000 is all we really should be talking about tonight. I want to point out ARPA funds won’t be available to anyone else either after 2024 so that will change staffing overall. The county could be in a better position. We’re trying to make the big decision tonight when we should be focusing on the $30,000.

Supervisor Schwab – It sounds to me like we’re already in dire straits in 2024.  If we do a study… I’m torn on how to proceed, and I wonder if it is a moot point. Is it already too late for a study.

Supervisor Pam Konrath – We represent our constituents. please keep that in mind when you vote

7:53 – proceed with a vote on a general fund transfer of $30,000 for additional studies for Samaritan Health Center.

Vote is 12 yes and 7 no – the action fails.

Linda Gurath – I make a motion we extend to the 3 months, a deadline of April 30, 2023 on the Ad-Hoc Committee study of the Samaritan Home.

Supervisor Brian Gallitz – When will Wipfly give us the data back? The results of its study

Matt Furno – We are waiting for the state. Three months will be a safety margin, it is a matter of will the state come up with reimbursement.

90-day extension for Ad-Hoc Committee on its study.

17 yes, 1 no and 1 abstention.


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