Hospital Board starts long-range planning for facility

At the November meeting of the North Shore Hospital Board, possible facility upgrades were discussed at length, however board member Tom Spence said he didn’t think the board could come to any kind of consensus, “in 15 minute segments” at regularly scheduled meetings. He asked the board if it would like to add one more meeting per month to talk only about facility upgrades, cost and phasing, if that is what is in the hospital’s future. The other board members agreed to add a second meeting solely to address future planning each month.  The first special planning meeting was held November 30 and the primary topic was the future of the Care Center.
Questions discussed were: Does North Shore Hospital have a responsibility to continue operating a care center because it is the only care center in the county? 
How much of an annual operating loss from the care center is sustainable?
Hospital Administrator Kimber Wraalstad shared a number of statistical projections and told the board that care center beds have been dropping in Minnesota through facility downsizing and closures. Wraalstad said 59 care centers around the state have closed since 2000, including facilities in Two Harbors, Hibbing, and Duluth.
She said people don’t stay in care centers as long as they used to.  Many people get better and go home.  Others don’t enter a care center until they are much closer to the end of their lives. 
However, fixing the economic bottom line is not as easy as just closing up the Care Center. Wraalstad said, “Some costs would be re-allocated to the hospital side—It is actually possible, even probable, that hospital rates would increase. …
Wraalstad told the hospital board that after Ely-Bloomenson Hospital in Ely separated itself from its care center, the hospital’s financial situation improved but the care center is having trouble staying afloat financially even though they received some financial help from the hospital to get started. 
Stand-alone nursing homes need to have 80-100 beds to be financially solid, Wraalstad said, explaining that certain positions such as a nursing director, administrator, and social worker must be in place no matter how small the facility.
No decisions were made. The board plans to continue discussing the future of the care center as it considers updating the facility through remodeling. These meetings are open to the public.