By Lynn Binnie
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
Residents of Fairhaven Senior Services and appropriate family members were notified this past week that the organization is closing its second floor skilled nursing unit, and consequently will no longer hold a license as a skilled nursing facility, sometimes known as a nursing home. Paul Kuenning, President/CEO of Fairhaven, shared his letter with the Banner, indicating that the decision that was made by the board of directors was not made lightly. Input was received from market analysis and industry consultants. “Over the past year the Board has continually reviewed the ongoing challenges with workforce shortages, inadequate reimbursement, and higher costs of operations and compliance, and has concluded that Fairhaven can no longer sustain skilled nursing services. This decision, though hard, will help ensure Fairhaven’s long-term viability and its ability to continue its mission to provide for God’s older children,” Kuenning stated.
Fairhaven’s decision is part of an increasing trend in the nation and Wisconsin in particular. Beginning even prior to the pandemic, driven by reimbursement, regulatory and staffing challenges, together with changing consumer preferences, the census in skilled nursing facilities has been declining while assisted living capacity and residency has steadily increased. According to a 2017 article in the Wisconsin State Journal, the state had nearly 4,200 assisted living facilities with room for 59,000 residents, compared to about 400 nursing homes with roughly 33,000 beds. By contrast, according to the article, until 2008, beds in nursing homes outnumbered those in assisted living. COVID-19 exacerbated the challenges for senior residences in general, with a high number of virus-related resident deaths occurring in many facilities, and increasing difficulties with recruiting and retaining staff.
According to Kuenning’s letter, “Since 2016, over 50 nursing homes in Wisconsin have made the difficult decision to close due to the ongoing pressures of workforce shortages and government reimbursement. Furthermore, according to data from LeadingAge Wisconsin, since March of 2020, over 2,666 nursing home beds have been delicensed.”
Kuenning continued, “Under current regulations Fairhaven will continue to care for many of our current skilled nursing patients, under a stepped-up assisted living plan and licensure as a Community Based Residential Facility. In addition, our Director of Nursing has estimated that we will be able to provide 80-85% of the care which was provided in skilled nursing to Fairhaven residents on assisted living floors and in apartments. To better accommodate this change, we plan to renovate 3rd and 4th floors to assisted living apartments and transition the skilled nursing floor into additional assisted living apartments with options for higher care levels.” He told the Banner that physical, occupational, and speech therapy services will continue to be provided.
“Fairhaven is working closely with the State Relocation Team to ensure a careful transition of skilled nursing residents to appropriate settings. Assessments of our current skilled nursing residents will be done by our nursing staff and support agencies to determine each individual’s needs in order to assure proper placement for future care. Throughout this process we will assure that all care needs are met, residents’ rights are protected, and resident centered care is maintained,” Kuenning stated.
Kuenning concluded, “At Fairhaven we will continue our mission and serve our residents in the apartments, assisted living, Hearthstone Memory Care, and duplex homes at Prairie Village. Fairhaven has served our community for sixty years, and we look forward to continuing our mission to provide quality services and care for our residents and our community.”