The People’s Tribune

Tri-County Care Center Seeks $100,000 while Correcting State Survey Deficiencies

Picture from Sept. 2021 TCCC Board meeting

During the July 12 regular meeting for the Vandalia Board of Aldermen, a decision on whether to help fund Tri-County Care Center’s (TCCC) third payroll payment of $100,000 was tabled. 

Instead, the Aldermen have scheduled a special meeting for Wed, July 27 at 5:30 to gather more information before voting on the issue.

According to the minutes from the July 12 aldermen meeting, “City Administrator Darren Berry explained that TCCC is in the process of reorganizing. One of TCCC’s immediate problems is that they do not have the funds to make their third (3rd) payroll payment, which is due at the end of the month.”

Before the council’s vote, members of the community voiced their opinions both for and against giving the nursing facility money.

“TCCC has asked if the city would consider helping them with this payment,” the minutes go on to state. “ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds can be used for this payment.”

Missouri received approximately $2.7 billion in State Fiscal Recovery Funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (2021).

Signed into law on March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included funding for states and local governments to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (aka “State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds”).

According to the Missouri ARPA website, “there are several main categories of allowable spending under federal regulations for the ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The eligible categories of spending include projects or programs that address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector.”

TCCC has suffered a string of setbacks since the 2020 pandemic from a Covid outbreak, overworked staff, and reduced number of clients to more recent staff losses, and a change of administrators. 

Last year during a September 2021 TCCC Board meeting, member Mike Hayden explained, “we’re a non-profit, but we still have to pay our bills. We’re having difficulty with that because of the low census.”  

At that time, TCCC Board members stated Covid-19 contributed to a significant drop in residents and staffing.   

Former administrator Megan Elledge told the Tribune the facility went from 90 residents to only 60 and from 120 staff to 88.  

Elledge has become one of the most recent staff members to exit the facility. The board has since hired an interim administrator. Although little information was provided on the cause of Elledge’s departure or her replacement, TCCC Board President, Connie Hesse, told the Tribune in a phone interview that the interim administrator is only temporary.  

“Each board member was contacted by phone or in person regarding hiring the interim administrator,” Hesse explained. “At that time each board member agreed with the recommendation to bring in an experienced individual to help resolve the deficiency items enumerated in the February 2022 survey and the June 2022 revisit.”

The state survey Hesse mentions is the CMS survey (the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services).  

“Her focus is to get us through this state survey,” Hesse continued. “Everyone’s focus has to be on getting the deficiencies corrected, so we can move on from the state survey. [The interim administrator] has a lot of experience working with state surveys, trying to correct deficiencies, and making sure it’s done. There’s a lot of work around the facility that needs to be improved. I don’t just mean in one aspect or another but a combination of many at the facility.”

The state’s CMS survey has listed TCCC with 204 deficiencies listed. The ramifications of not correcting them could be devastating for the home.

According to CMS.gov, “the result in the Social Security Act (SSA) requires any nursing home that does not achieve substantial compliance with the Federal requirements within six months be terminated from participation in Medicare and/or Medi-caid.”  

Those programs make up a large portion of the state funding for nursing homes. Failing to correct the deficiencies to the auditors’ requirements could be a final straw for the already financially struggling facility.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep the facility open,” Hesse answered. “Alan Winders approached our former administrator and said he thought there could be a meeting between the city to see if there was any COVID-19 money to give to Tri-County to help them through this difficult time. The problem became more significant when we had our state survey come in. So, our main goal is to get the revisit on the survey so that we pass that. We’re all on a timeframe for this. The plan of correction was submitted by our former administrator on July 14. From the results of that revisit, we’ll know if we can move forward on trying to hire more people and bring in more residents.” 

While the Vandalia City Aldermen decide whether to help TCCC at the July 27 meeting, the success of TCCC’s staff and interim administrator on the CMS revisit may ultimately decide the fate of Vandalia’s only senior care center.

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