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Published: Monday, 5/22/2006

Van Wert Co. mulls closure of Lincolnway

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

VAN WERT, Ohio - Van Wert County could join the growing number of Ohio counties that have gotten out of the nursing home business.

A task force that was appointed in January to look at the viability of the county-owned Lincolnway nursing home concluded last week that the facility should be closed "as soon as possible, and no later than Dec. 31, 2006."

The 50-bed home has experienced a steady decline in residents, the task force pointed out, and has needed an infusion of cash from county taxpayers to keep its doors open.

County Commissioner Clair Dudgeon said commissioners have to do more research before deciding the fate of the county home.

"We still have a lot of public support for it," Mr. Dudgeon said. "We've received numerous calls particularly from family members of residents and others who really would like to see the nursing home continue."

County taxpayers have consistently renewed, and last year replaced, an 0.8-mill operating levy dedicated to Lincolnway that generates about $300,000 a year, Mr. Dudgeon said. During the last four years, however, the commissioners have allocated an average of $200,000 a year from the general fund to keep the nursing home in the black.

The nursing home also receives about $45,000 a year in rental income from the farming of 300 adjacent acres.

Commissioner Gary Adams conceded the future doesn't look good for the home, which is about five miles east of Van Wert on Lincoln Highway. He said not only is the census low at Lincolnway - there were 26 residents in April - but even private nursing homes in the county are reporting occupancy rates around 75 percent.

"With home-health care, people are choosing to stay home more even when they're terminally ill," Mr. Adams said. "With hospice and visiting nurses, it makes it easier."

Because Lincolnway is not licensed to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients, it is at a competitive disadvantage as well, commissioners said.

Among the other county-owned nursing homes operating in northwest Ohio, Country View Haven near Napoleon also is not Medicaid and Medicare-certified. Henry County Commissioners briefly discussed its possible closure earlier this year but have tabled the issue for now, Country View Haven Superintendent Sue Meister said.

Wood, Ottawa, Williams, Putnam, and Erie counties also operate nursing homes, but all of those are licensed for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Mr. Adams, whose father was once a resident of Lincolnway, said if commissioners decide to close the nursing home, it would not be because of the care given to residents there. "We've never had any problems with the care there," he said. "It was fantastic. My dad loved it."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.



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