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South Dakota Communities Struggle With Nursing-Home Closures

The closure of nursing homes in rural communities across the Midwest means loved ones live farther away from families and their communities. (sbinevanerp/Pixabay)
The closure of nursing homes in rural communities across the Midwest means loved ones live farther away from families and their communities. (sbinevanerp/Pixabay)
December 2, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The number of rural communities with few options for elder care continues to grow across South Dakota. The Hudson Care and Rehab Center in the southeastern corner of the state was the most recent closure, and marked the sixth nursing home center closure in the past year-and-a-half.

Mark Deak, executive director with the South Dakota Health Care Association, called the closures a "crisis" and said it's all the result of inadequate funding.

"You hear the word 'crisis' a lot, and sometimes I think that word is overused. But it's certainly not in this case,” Deak said. “And the primary factor is under-funding. South Dakota has one of the largest Medicaid gaps in the country."

More than half of the total resident population in nursing centers relies on Medicaid to pay for their care. South Dakota lawmakers authorized a 10% increase in Medicaid reimbursement for the state's nursing facilities earlier this year, but Deak said nursing centers still lose an average of $42 per day for each resident paying through Medicaid.

According to Deak, the statewide costs of unreimbursed nursing-center care total more than $48 million annually. He noted South Dakota is not alone in its struggle to maintain housing options for the elderly and disabled.

"It's a widespread challenge for many, many states,” he said. “I just think, given the nature of South Dakota and its rather small population and yet very large geographic land mass, that problem is exacerbated."

In Nebraska, 16 nursing facilities closed between 2015 and 2018, and 22 have been placed under state receivership - the majority of them located in rural areas. Deak said he believes the crisis calls for a statewide and national discussion.

"None of us are getting any younger, and I believe that obligation to care for our loved ones - our parents, our grandparents cared for us, we need to be able to do the same for them - and we just need to make it a priority,” he said.

In addition to Hudson, recent long-term care center closures in South Dakota have occurred in Sioux Falls, Huron, Madison, Mobridge, Tripp, Bryant and Rosholt.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD