Heritage Administrator Kurt Hansen asked the Hubbard County Board to continue contributing $3,582 per month, or $42,984 annually, to the nursing facility.

Through the Equitable Cost-Sharing for Publicly Owned Nursing Facilities (ECPN) Program, the county’s contribution generates about $118,000 in nursing home revenue.

“It’s really a matching fund opportunity with the state and federal government,” Hansen said. “In other words, for every 35 cents contributed, we get a buck back.”

ECPN was established in 2010 through Minnesota Statute. Hansen explained it is a mechanism for county- or city-owned nursing facilities to receive a federal match for their contributions to the operation of the nursing home. Hospital districts, like those in Perham and Pelicans Rapids, are also eligible.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Hansen continued, the non-federal share of the ECPN payment must be paid by the county, either through its tax revenues, reserves or other resources. The use of nursing home funds is strictly prohibited.

Hansen noted that Hubbard County and the Heritage campus participated in ECPN from 2011 through 2015, and again in 2017, which runs through 2020.

The current county contribution is between $3,000 and $4,000 per month, which creates $118,000 in revenue for the nursing facility.

County commissioner Char Christenson pointed out that the county’s fund will be exhausted by the end of this year, even though it is supposed to run through 2020.

County Auditor Kay Rave confirmed that, after the October payment, there will be $751 left.

Hansen said the additional revenue to the nursing home will go toward “much-needed staff pay and benefit increases and help solidify our financial position.”

The Heritage campus board recommended keeping the ECPN daily rate at $7.71 per day. The maximum amount, Hansen said, which is $11.24 per day, would create another $80,000 for the nursing home, but would also require a larger county contribution.

“$7.71 is kind of the middle ground, and it’s the amount we’ve worked with the last couple of years,” he said.

Rave said she’s not aware that the county has ever levied for any nursing home dollars. “I believe we could. Currently, we’ve simply been paying for this out of our reserves. That could be a discussion some other time, but it might be something to think about,” she said.

County commissioner David De La Hunt asked, “What kind of situation would it put the nursing home in if we said ‘no’?”

Hansen said the ECPN revenue was included in the preliminary 2020 budget, “so I’d have to go back and make about a $120,000 in reductions.”

County commissioner Tom Krueger recalled that the 2018 audit reported higher income due to the nursing home’s expansion.

Hansen said, with the increase in beds and patient numbers, there were increased expenses. The facility also has the remodeling debt obligations of about $665,000 per year.

“The margins in long-term care are, unfortunately, really tight. So even a $100,000 would make a big difference,” Hansen said, adding that Heritage aims to break even. “We’re also seeing a significant cost growth in the area of staffing. We’ve had to use agency staffing to fill the void, as it’s very difficult to recruit employees. We recognize now that we really may have to push harder for better pay for recruitment purposes.”

Hansen said the nursing shortage is a statewide issue, and other industries are also experiencing a scarcity of staff.

The board tabled the issue until their Nov. 5 meeting for further discussion.

In other business, the board did as follows:

  • Authorized Hubbard County to act as the fiscal agent for the Hubbard County complete count committee for grant monies up to $750.

  • Accepted the sole quote of $122,169 from RDO Truck Centers of Fargo for a 2021 Mack AF Granite 64FR tandem snowplow truck chassis, as recommended by County Highway Engineer Jed Nordin.

  • Learned that eight of nine tracts sold at the Oct. 7 timber auction, for a total sales price of $181,525. County Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier noted that prices continue to decline.

  • Accepted the low quote of $6,240 for VPN Software for 30 law enforcement laptops from CDW Government of Chicago, Ill., as recommended by Sheriff Cory Aukes and IT Director Robb Warne. They also accepted the low quote of $10,568 for Microsoft Office from the same firm.

  • Accepted the low quote of $20,385 for 15 Dell Latitude 5400 laptops and accessories from DellEMC, Round Rock, Texas.

  • Accepted the low quote of $4,799 for a host server and components from ByteSpeed of Moorhead. They also accepted the low quote of $69,890 for a Nimble SAN server and upgrade support/maintenance from the same firm.