The Rock County Board tabled last week a resolution to study whether the county should get out of the nursing home business.
Which leaves the rest of us to wonder: What’s the board so afraid of?
Rock County supervisors Yuri Rashkin and Rick Richard were on the right track to propose forming a committee to study the facility’s future, but Rashkin backed out at the last minute, stating constituents complained to him about potentially closing Rock Haven.
At last week’s board meeting, Richard seemed ready to move forward with the study, but Rashkin sought to amend the resolution to avoid examining whether the county should sell the facility.
In the end, the board tabled the resolution.
The board can abandon this study, but the concerns noted in the tabled resolution aren’t going away:
Last year, Rock Haven received 18 federal citations resulting in $42,330 in forfeitures.
A Medicare website that rates nursing homes gives Rock Haven 1 out of 5 stars for overall quality.
Rock Haven is a substantial drain on Rock County taxpayers, costing them more than $4 million each year.
We urge the county not to cower at the thought of closing Rock Haven but to pursue the facts. The board should objectively analyze whether the cost of operating Rock Haven outweighs the benefits. It’s important to address this budgetary burden now because the facility’s finances could deteriorate even more, forcing a hasty decision later.
The trend isn’t in Rock Haven’s favor.
As the tabled resolution notes, Racine County decided in 2017 to sell its nursing home after a task force recommended the sale. In 2010, Jefferson County did the same, selling its facility only seven years after building it.
Walworth County officials are thinking about it, too. In a Sept. 24 interview, retiring Walworth County Administrator David Bretl told The Gazette the No. 1 issue facing Walworth County government is the future of its nursing home.
“It’s not in a crisis mode, but we’re in a period of time when we need to make a decision as to what the future of that operation is going to be, given completely inadequate reimbursements from the federal government and given our aging workforce and relatively slow population growth in our county,” Bretl said.
Rock Haven’s poor performance might have continued to go unnoticed if not for the Rock County Board becoming drawn into an incident involving an employee fired over several rolls of toilet paper disappearing from the facility. The board voted to reinstate the employee in July, but the ordeal cost taxpayers more than $12,000.
We had a few chuckles in the newsroom about the TP caper, but the issues surrounding Rock Haven are no laughing matter.
It’s fair to ask whether the county should be running the facility at all, and any attempt to dismiss this question would be a disservice to taxpayers.
Rashkin should listen to his initial instinct to join Richard in examining the future of Rock Haven. The two should revive the tabled resolution at the board’s next meeting.