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Shortage of Local Nurses, Insufficient Medicaid Reibursements Close Bennett County Nursing Home

The Bennett County Hospital system is closing its nursing home before skyrocketing costs sink its entire organization, including the new hospital they are building in Martin. In a letter announcing the October 13 closure, CEO Michael Christensen blames the shortage of local workers:

Today the nursing home industry, including our nursing home in Martin, faces challenges unimaginable even a few years ago that have worsened tremendously since the COVID–19 pandemic. We’ve had more and more difficulty hiring local staff and welcoming new residents through our doors. Our costs have skyrocketed as we have to pay higher and higher rates for nurses from out of our state to care for our residents. Today we have only 2.5 local nurses who work in our nursing home. All others are travelers [Michael Christensen, “Bennett County Nursing Home to Close,” Lakota Times, 2023.08.23].

…and South Dakota’s failure to reimburse the cost of caring for Medicaid patients:

For many years, South Dakota has paid the lowest Medicaid rate for nursing home care of all 50 US states and 5 US Territories. In 2022 the national long-term care experts Abbot and Associates reported that South Dakota paid the nation’s lowest Average Medicaid base payment, more than three times less than some other states and only 62% of the national average. South Dakota is the lowest paying of all the States and Territories. Bennett County Nursing Home (BCNH) also cares for many Medicaid Residents, with 97% covered only by Medicaid. The experts at McKnight’s & Associates report that facilities that serve a high share of Medicaid residents generally have lower base payment rates than any other provider in their states.

We are among the lowest reimbursed nursing home in America’s lowest reimbursing state or territory. As of March 2023, 26,514 nursing homes in America and our state are paid more than we are by Medicaid to care for residents with the same needs. Some as much as 400% more [Christensen, 2023.08.23].

Once the Bennett County nursing home closes, the nearest nursing home will be the Oglala Sioux Lakota Nursing Home 48 miles away, across the border in Whiteclay, Nebraska.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-08-25

    Wendy Soulek is chief operating officer for and heir to Lantis Enterprises—a Spearditch, South Dakota company operating some 21 long term care centers, 6 Alzheimer’s Units, 14 personal care/assisted living centers, and 5 home health agencies including facilities in Montana.

    Because of Republican cuts to Medicaid reimbursements ten long term care properties closed in Montana last year and in October Lantis shut their fifth home including the Friendship Villa in Miles City and Rocky Mountain Care Center in Helena. Lantis shuttered the Glacier Care Center in Cut Bank February 1 and the Beartooth Manor in Columbus on January 7.

    After Amtrak’s Empire Builder derailed near Joplin, Montana in 2021 many of the injured passengers were unable to find medical care because area hospitals were overwhelmed with unvaccinated Republicans.

    Wendy Soulek’s father Will Lantis was a Republican politician who died drunk at the wheel in 2006 in a single vehicle crash near Spearditch.

  2. John 2023-08-25

    Meanwhile, the arrogant, ignorant SD governor protests at the Texas border about immigration. — when her state is short healthcare aides, farm workers, construction laborers, etc.
    Normal republicans favor immigration as a means to keep labor wages and unions down. “Modern” republicans disfavor immigration to have something to thoughtlessly oppose. The point being; they don’t know what they stand for or why.

  3. jerry 2023-08-25

    Those guys in Martin could get all the help then need by paying wages, but they can’t, because everyone doesn’t want to pay for those in warehouses waiting to die. The politicians surely don’t want to pay for anything like that, even they wouldn’t have to. But they like to feel good about killing people slowly as that is the republican way.

    Oglala Lakota College has a very good nursing school, Sinte Gleska University also has a very good nursing program. These are two programs that could supply the skilled nurses needed. But, they would want to be paid for that and paid well. Housing would need to be available and a change in attitude would be helpful.

    In 1988, Mickelson, the governor of South Dakota, put a Nursing Facility Moratorium on building new nursing homes. Now you know why the closest nursing home is in White Clay, Nebraska.

  4. jerry 2023-08-25

    From the reading of the Rapid City Journal article, the Biden administration was not even mentioned. The congressional guys were though. Hmmm, I wonder why? I guess we are all left to wonder where that loan came from. Also, Indians were treated at the old hospital and didn’t pay. I guess that somehow by building a new hospital, that payment stuff will be forgiven. If we had Medicare for All, we would all be delighted to know that emergency needs and nursing home needs would be covered. Golly, how simple.

  5. grudznick 2023-08-25

    Martin is sandwiched between two reservations, and just north of a garden spot. They could get recently retired nurses to move there and work part-time shifts at the home, if they hired people around Lar’s age.

  6. P. Aitch 2023-08-25

    It seems that SD isn’t a good place to retire.,
    VISIT COLORADO – “You know, for the scenery” 😊

  7. Arlo Blundt 2023-08-25

    Nonsense, Grudznick….no one wants to work in a failing, understaffed nursing home. Its very tough, demoralizing work, with the residual employees being exploited daily. Noem could have solved the ongoing Nursing Home crises in rural South Dakota…she had the funds sitting in her Covid relief funds. No other institutions were hit harder by Covid as were our Nursing Homes. Thune, in a powerful position in the Senate, and a native of Western South Dakota was certainly aware of the situation.

  8. Algebra 2023-08-26

    Having worked in long-term care, the sad fact is that government regulations require the employment of multiple full-time staff, often registered nurses and dietitians, who have nothing to do with direct resident care, just to ensure compliance. These people, usually women, sit in offices all day long writing care plans and menus. They cost money. So do administrators and directors of nursing.
    This is money which could be spent hiring the actual care providers.
    Achieving a balance between ensuring proper care of very vulnerable residents and how much that compliance costs is tricky.

    Then there is the problem of the nurses themselves. They aren’t nuns any more. They aren’t single women willing to work in exchange for room and board, either. Those days are over. Now they have families to support, and they don’t want to live in communities with limited opportunities for their families.
    The best option for long-term care facilities is to be located in a city where there is a nursing school or at least a college. The students make good CNAs and they need the money. The professional staff like the way the presence of a college enhances a community.
    You can’t build a nursing home in the middle of nowhere and expect women to show up. The notion that “if you build it, they will come,” doesn’t work with women. I guess it works with men; they’ll even go to Nowhere, North Dakota, and live in man camps, but it doesn’t work with women. They won’t live in woman camps no matter what the wages are.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2023-08-26

    Algebra–I have worked in direct care facilities,on and off all my life. I have yet to discern why we, as a society, need to staff these facilities, which we are all likely to inhabit as we grow old, with good people working for poverty wages.

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