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St. Joseph's Homemaker program cut

The economic downturn continues to hit various industries, including health care.

St. Joseph's Area Health Services announced its discontinuation of the Homemaker program beginning June 30. It's one component of Hospice and Home Care.

"This change speaks to the current challenge that health care is facing," said St. Joseph's CEO and president Ben Koppelman. "Especially if we continue to face state budget cuts."

Homemaking services include housecleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and meal preparation.

Most of St. Joseph's patients receive homemaking services in addition to other Home Care services that include skilled nursing and physician treatments.

A total of 79 area clients currently receive Home Care and about 10 are receiving only homemaking services.

Other components of Home Care will not be affected, which means most of the clients will still continue to receive medical services at home.

"We felt we needed to do this in order to help preserve other parts of our Home Care services and the other core services that we offer to the community," Koppelman said.

St. Joseph's has been providing homemaking services for about 21 years and serving clients in Hubbard, Wadena, Becker and Cass counties.

Employees traveling to the clients' homes are paid for travel time as well as work time.

At this time, five employees will be affected by the elimination of the program, but St. Joseph's is looking for opportunities to employ them in other positions as they become available, Koppelman said.

Tri-County Hospital in Wadena will also discontinue its homemaking services at the end of this month.

Hospital officials have been working with Wadena County to find private entities to provide homemaking services.

"A program without a medical component doesn't fit with the hospital's mission as well as the medical based components," said Tri-County's CEO and president Joel Beiswenger.

Wadena County officials have approached Greenwood Connections in Menahga to provide homemaking services, according to administrator Clair Erickson.

He told the Greenwood Connections board this week that he would consider participating in the program but with restrictions on distance employees would have to travel.

"Windshield time has never been cost effective," Erickson said.

But he added that if the hospital is incurring losses from the program, then the nursing home would not profit from it either.

"I'm rather dubious that we could do any better," Erickson said.

Tri-County has been providing homemaking services since the mid 90s and has served clients within a 30-mile radius of Wadena.

Homemaking combined with Home Care in Wadena serve 240 clients and after the cuts, the client base will be between 120 and 140.

Additionally, a total of 12 employees will be affected by the elimination of the program.

"The financial realities are driving this decision," Beiswenger said. "The state reimbursement levels aren't adequate to maintain those services."