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Letter: Local nursing homes are serving veterans well

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This is probably going to get me in a lot of trouble, but someone has to raise these issues. While a new veterans home in Bemidji may be an economic boost, there is an unspoken downside. Please allow an explanation.

I was the administrator at Beltrami Nursing Home (now Havenwood Care Center) from 1979 thru 2000. The constant struggle all those years was pitiful reimbursement. In the early 1980s the state of Minnesota designated Beltrami and a few surrounding counties as deep rural locations. They established daily room rates about 20 percent less than our metro colleagues and hospital associated homes. This condition exists even today. Attempting to maintain a competitive wage and benefit package is an ongoing battle. A veterans facility will only exacerbate this already precarious situation. The federal wage/ benefit structure considerably exceeds any private sector offering. I fear there will be an exodus of staff from the many nursing homes and assisted living facilities in our region.

There's more. By its own calculations, the state of Minnesota asserts there are excessive nursing home beds in northern Minnesota. In addition, from my understanding the number of assisted living units is reaching critical mass. Increasing capacity in our region seems counterproductive and could be the demise of operations already on the edge. In addition, everyone rails against the rising cost of health care. To promote such an expensive, and duplicative, facility is puzzling. Just because we can attract and spend other people's money doesn't make it right.

Finally, the rush to build a veterans home suggests the current provider community is incapable of delivering quality services. Perhaps I missed the explanation on how veterans long-term care needs are not being met in their local communities. I'm guessing such is not the case.

As is evident I support all nursing homes and assisted living facilities that have persevered over the years in a less than ideal financial environment. I would submit their commitment should be recognized and encouraged. At a minimum, the concerns of area providers must be considered. The most one could hope for is that a similar fervor for a new veterans home be directed at addressing the reimbursement inequities the region has lived with for so many years.

For the record, I am a veteran, but also a taxpayer.

Larry Schuette

Bemidji

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