While it weighs what to do with the county fairgrounds, the DuPage County Board also will be taking a look at the future operation of the DuPage Convalescent Center in Wheaton.
On Aug. 11, the board approved a $99,500 contract to nonprofit management consultant Center for Governmental Research to present options to manage the care facility as it faces a future of dwindling Medicaid payments and government subsidies.
Board member Bob Larsen, who chairs the county Health and Human Services Committee, said the future of the center long had been a topic for discussion.
The committee decided to do a comprehensive look when the county upped its level of direct subsidy last year from $2.4 million to $3 million annually.
“That shows the numbers aren’t trending the way we’d like them to, despite the best efforts of everyone,” Larsen said. “It’s been an ongoing discussion on how can we best maintain the dust of the facility, maintain the quality of the care that we provide in a model that makes sense for taxpayers.”
Larsen rebuffed questions from board member Liz Chaplin – the lone nay vote – that suggested the goal of the study was to privatize or close the Convalescent Center. Larsen said he and the committee were interested in solving its financial problems and maintaining services.
Ultimately, he said the committee hoped to keep intact the center’s core mission of caring for DuPage County residents who don’t have any other option due to poverty.
However, the declining Medicaid reimbursements that help pay for the care of those individuals have been a heavy financial burden, according to center administrator Jennifer Ulmer.
“The shortfall comes from the nature of the population we serve – between 75 and 85 percent of our residents get some form of Medicaid,” she said. “The reimbursements are lower than the costs.”
Larsen said the shortfall could cost upwards of $1 million next year alone. Ulmer said the center had tried to be creative in the way it raised money, including operating the cafeterias at the county courthouse and administration building as well as through its foundation, but was still coming up short.
Larsen said the Center for Governmental Research had the expertise to take a more comprehensive outside look at the center and come up with solutions. He anticipated a preliminary report coming by the end of the year.
Ulmer said she had been involved throughout the conversation to hire the firm, and said any suggestions would be welcome and taken into consideration.
“I think the step the board took today shows the solid opinion of the chairman and the board that they value the Convalescent Center and value it as one of the more important assets in the county,” she said.