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.