Local advocacy groups and health care facilities have plans to address the shortage of nursing home beds plaguing the Champaign and Urbana area.
The number of nursing home beds has plummeted since the closing of several nursing homes in the last five years. This year, there are about 400 Medicare-certified beds in the county according to Medicare’s website, a significant drop from about 700 beds the county used to have.
The closure of Champaign County Nursing Home this year took away 230 beds, resulting in the displacement of residents who now have fewer options for care inside the county or have to look outside it. The closing of two other homes in the county, Helia in 2009 and Heartland Healthcare in 2019, took away about 220 beds from the county.
Cathy Emanuel, founder of the Advocates for Nursing Home Care, said her organization and others in the area are conducting a needs assessment survey in January next year to address the lack of nursing home beds and other issues, part of a community collaboration with other organizations announced earlier this year.
“After we do the needs assessment we plan to contract with an outside organization for a market study,” Emanuel said. “The market study is a consultant who looks at secondary data like the population, aging, economics, and will do a calculation on what they think the bed need is and for what kind of needs.”
The survey will be available both electronically and through physical forms, Emanuel said. It will be open to the public and will be distributed to local facilities.
Emanuel said Advocates for Nursing Home Care, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, United Way Community Foundation, Christie Clinic and other organizations were given $30,000 by the Champaign County Board to conduct the needs assessment and test the survey. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will eventually fund the market study, which has no estimated start date as of last week,
“It’s a strange thing because in our county, we’re about 300 beds short of the number of nursing homes that public health says we should need,” she said.
Advocates for Nursing Home Care, made up of Champaign residents who have faced personal hardships between the county’s nursing homes and their loved ones, want to find how the decrease in beds is impacting the community.
Emanuel shared the story of a friend whose loved one had to be taken to a home in Indiana because of a lack of care in the county.
“There’s two issues with that,” she said. “If somebody’s going to be visiting that person, it’s very difficult for anybody to visit them … and in some cases it’s just a matter of someone being there on behalf on helping their loved one make the appropriate medical decisions, especially if the family lives so far away.”
Emanuel said the issue affects the staff working in these facilities.
“There is a shortage [of beds] now. Before, I think, homes were starting to lose agency,” she said.
Michelle Absolam, a nurse practitioner who has practiced around the state, said the shortage of beds is affecting fellow nurses and staff at the home she currently works at.
She said the loss of beds and lack of overall resources impacts the staffing of the homes.
“I noticed here that we don’t have pay … if someone calls out sick, then you don’t have anybody to work, so it’s been strained,” Absolam said.