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Our area nursing homes are failing their patients – WCIA TV story

September 1, 2022

Dear friends,

Ever since the Champaign County Board sold the county’s nursing home in 2018, the quality and options for skilled nursing care and rehab in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs; also known as “nursing homes”) in Champaign County has declined steadily.
CCHCC strenuously opposed the sale of the Champaign County Nursing Home for exactly this reason. We opposed the sale of the County Nursing Home on principle, because our research showed that county nursing homes provide higher quality of care because they have better staffing ratios since they are not trying to make a profit, and we also opposed the sale to the particular buyer that the brokers found for the county (the Rothners), because of the horrendous track record of their nursing homes.
Not only does our county have fewer nursing homes as a result of the sale of the county nursing home, and therefore fewer beds, to help care for an increasing aging population and those who need rehabilitation following a hospital stay – the nursing homes that remain are now severely understaffed.
Understaffing of nursing homes has a direct impact on patient care. And while many might think that the understaffing is a result of the pandemic, the truth is that understaffing in our area nursing homes is not simply caused by the pandemic. Understaffing of nursing homes is often a business model for the for-profit nursing home companies.
A recent story on WCIA-TV shows an all-too-common nursing home horror story. This story features Lisa Dixon, who is the co-chair of the CCHCC Board of Directors, and her sister-in-law, Lori Dixon (she has end-stage MS), who was a patient at Savoy’s CU Nursing and Rehab facility. Check out the reporting by WCIA’s Renee Cooper.
This story is all too common, and it is happening to too many of our community members. And the actual situation was far worse than what the news story was able to cover.
What happened to the nursing homes in our community? Champaign County used to have a few more nursing homes than we have now.
However, when the County Board sold the Champaign County Nursing Home to the Rothners, this gave the Rothners and their various limited liability corporations entrée into our community, and they would go on to purchase and acquire at least two more nursing homes here in Champaign County. The Rothner’s LLCs not only purchased the County Nursing Home – they also went on to purchase Helia Healthcare on Mattis Ave., and Heartland, on Springfield Ave.
But, did they purchase those nursing homes in order to improve them so that there could be better care available here in Champaign County? No, of course they didn’t. They shut them down and sold them, thereby reducing the total number of beds available in our county. Heartland was razed, and now, in its place, is an apartment building. Helia was shut down and sits empty, creating an eyesore.
What is the impact on our community? The impact on our community has been both the loss of nursing/rehab beds available, as well as a decline in quality of care. While the story above is not about one of the Rothner-owned nursing homes, there are plenty of bad stories coming out of the former County Nursing Home, which the Rothners purchased, now called University Rehabilitation Center of C-U, LLC.
Because there are fewer SNF beds for nursing and rehab care in Champaign County, many of our community members who need that kind of care are having to go to facilities away from Champaign County. This creates a very challenging situation for family and friends (and the patient), since more travel is required, making it harder for loved ones to visit regularly.
As an example, I had a client last December who was terminally ill with an aggressive cancer. Everyone knew she wouldn’t live long. She transitioned from the hospital to a nursing home for her hospice care. She had no family, but she did have friends. However, she was low-income and so were most of her friends, and they relied on bus transportation in town. So, when my client was placed in a nursing home in Vermillion County because there were no beds for her locally, or no local nursing homes would accept her, she died only a few days later, never having had any friends to visit her at the end of her life. Thinking about this still breaks my heart.
Keeping tabs on quality of care, staffing ratios, and reports on quality of care. We do have some tools at our disposal for keeping an eye on quality of care issues with our area nursing homes. The Illinois Department of Public Health has a website where you can find information about quality of care.
On this page, you can find links to quarterly reports of nursing home violations.

You can also find comparison data on nursing homes – including how their staffing and time spent with patients compares to state and federal averages – here.
As an example, you can see that CU Nursing and Rehab in Savoy (featured in the WCIA story above), is rated “Much below average” compared to other nursing homes.
What can you do if you or a loved one need rehab or nursing care at a Skilled Nursing Facility? It is very challenging to find a good setting for care, because it depends on which facilities are willing to accept the patient on referral by the hospital.

However, if you are given some options for choosing a facility, you can try to get as much information as possible on your choices in the following ways:
•      Ask hospital personnel if they have a recommendation, depending on type of care needed.
•      Do your online research, using the links provided above.
•      Go and visit the facilities, unannounced, if possible. Do the “smell test” when you walk in. If you smell urine or infections and it seems pervasive, this is a bad sign and could indicate understaffing and the inability of the staff to get to patients in time to provide the care they need. Also, you should NOT see lots of residents sleeping in wheelchairs clustered in areas like hallways or around nurses’ stations. If you do, this could be a sign of understaffing.
Also, if you do have a loved one who is in a facility for nursing or rehab care, CCHCC recommends that family and/or friends visit the loved one every single day, if possible. This can help troubleshoot problems and identify issues that might require more attention. For example, if a loved one falls and is injured, but if there is no follow up evaluation from staff at the nursing home, loved ones need to know this and take steps to get the patient to the ER to be fully evaluated.
Thank you for your support and involvement. As always, we at CCHCC thank you for your support of CCHCC and your involvement. Please feel free to share this email and the resources included.

Claudia Lennhoff
Executive Director
Champaign County Health Care Consumers