Cerenity to close 2 aging metro nursing homes

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 13, 2011 - 11:03 AM

Evolving care practices and budget pressures spurred the closings.

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A resident at Cerenity Care Center-Marian in St. Paul. The Cerenity Care Center-Marian will remain open.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Two aging and financially troubled nursing homes in the east metro area will close by Nov. 11, forcing about 187 residents to move and costing the jobs of 320 workers, the homes' owners said Monday.

Closing are Cerenity Care Center on Dellwood Place in St. Paul, with 87 residents, and Cerenity Care Center-Bethesda of South St. Paul, with 100 residents. Cerenity Senior Care is owned by HealthEast Care System and Benedictine Health System.

The announcement reflects pressures facing many of Minnesota's 385 nursing homes in an era of evolving care practices and chronic budget pressures for the state, which pays a large share of long-term care bills.

In the last decade, 57 homes have closed -- 32 in the metro area -- and the number of nursing home beds has dropped to about 31,000 from about 46,000 in 1995. More homes may close this year.

"Even though there are more aging people, fewer of them are going into nursing homes," said Chuck Heidbrink, president of Cerenity Senior Care. "These two homes just need too much in the way of capital improvements to make it financially."

Heidbrink said it probably won't be difficult to find new homes for the residents; Cerenity operates three other nearby nursing homes. Helping employees find work may be more difficult, he said.

The decision to close was made earlier this summer, after the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton agreed on a new state budget that froze rates for nursing home care. "We probably would have closed anyway because the buildings just need too much renovation," Heidbrink said. "But we waited until the last minute to decide. You always live in hope."

'Our industry is changing'

For many years, Minnesota had among the nation's highest number of nursing home beds per capita, but that has been changing. For a decade, state policies have encouraged homes to scale back beds.

"Our industry is changing its focus from bricks and mortar to providing more care in a person's home, whether that's a traditional house or an apartment," said Gayle Kvenvold, CEO of the trade group Aging Services of Minnesota.

"But this is really hard on older buildings that need an infusion of capital at a time of a freeze on nursing home rates," she said.

She said she knows of two other nursing home organizations considering closure this year "as their only remaining option."

Heidbrink said the two affected Cerenity homes each need about $2 million in capital improvements, and each is losing about $25 a day for each of its residents on Medicaid. The state-federal program pays for care of about two-thirds of nursing home residents, after care costs exhaust their savings.

The law requires Cerenity to give residents and their families as least 60 days notice of a closure and to ensure that each has a new home.

Heidbrink said meetings for staff, managers and residents and their families were held Monday, and more meetings will be held later this week.

"We'll use our vans and staff to help residents and families tour other facilities," he said. "This is a difficult time for all of us, but we want to help everyone make the best decisions they can."

Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253

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