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Local News

Will County-owned nursing home will likely downsize, reduce staff

Residents at county-owned facility would see more private, larger rooms

A renovated bedroom at the Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet. Plans to downsize Sunny Hill were presented Thursday to a Will County committee.
A renovated bedroom at the Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet. Plans to downsize Sunny Hill were presented Thursday to a Will County committee.

JOLIET – Sunny Hill Nursing Home administrators sought approval Thursday from a Will County Board committee to downsize its staff and bed count as a way to stave off costs and shift to becoming a more resident-centered organization with private rooms.

Now is the time to make the transition as the county-owned facility is nearing the end of its multi-phase, $20.5 million project, Sunny Hill Administrator Karen Sorbero told members of the Will County Board’s Public Health and Safety Committee.

“This is the time because we’re in the last phase [of construction]. … If we’re going to make this change, we need to start making it now,” Sorbero said.

The nursing home, at 421 Doris Ave. in Joliet, would go from 227 to 156 beds, and staff would be reduced by about 63 across various departments through attrition, under a restructuring plan Sorbero presented. The plan was created by the Chicago-based consulting firm RSM US LLP.

The new configuration would have six units with 26 residents each. Each would consist of 20 private rooms and three semi-private rooms, according to Sorbero.

“You ask any resident at Sunny Hill Nursing Home what they’d like, if we could give them anything in the world, and after you get through the answers of, ‘Well, I’d like my health back or my husband or wife back, or my home back’ … they will tell you they want private rooms,” Sorbero said.

When factoring in a $3.5 million loss in revenue because of the decrease in residents, the facility would save a net total of $1.2 million by reducing staffing numbers and costs associated with medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and bed tax, according to the RSM executive summary. The facility has an annual operating budget of $22.4 million, according to county budget documents.

Reducing the bed count would save the nursing home facility money on the state’s bed tax, she said. Under Illinois law, every nursing home provider in the state is required to pay a $1.50 quarterly state tax for each licensed bed at the facility, on top of a monthly tax for each resident occupying those beds.

“We’re still taxed for [the beds] every day whether occupied or not,” Sorbero said.

Shared bedrooms are linked with higher rates of infections and sleep problems, Sorbero told the committee, while private bedrooms are easier to market, and less staff time would be spent on resident conflict.

More than half of the residents at Sunny Hill are funded through Medicaid, while 37 percent are private pay.

The committee Thursday signed off on the plan to reduce the bed count and staff size, but the move still requires approval from the full County Board.

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