The People’s Tribune

Tri-County Care Center to Close

Brice Chandler – Editor

Vandalia’s last nursing home will shut its doors at the end of August.
Some 55 residents who call the facility home will now be forced into different locations. Many more employees who have worked at Tri-County Care Center for decades are suddenly facing the uncertainty of unemployment.

Tri-County Care Center in Vandalia has had a turbulent past two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staffing and resident shortages, state health inspection deficiencies, and financial losses have all plagued the residential care center.

Although health inspection deficiencies have been culminating over the past few years, it’s been a whirlwind week for residents and employees.

Only seven days ago, TCCC’s board stated they were trying to do everything they could to keep the facility open.

According to TCCC board members, the closure might only be a temporary resolution until a private entity takes charge of the facility or funding is found.

But TCCC could lose its state license if a buyer is not found within the next two years.

Since mid-July, TCCC has sought help from the city of Vandalia to cut employee paychecks for the last pay period of the month. An expense of just under $90,000.

Vandalia City Administrator, Darren Berry, recommended utilizing $90,000 of unused American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to bail out the facility. That amount is a reduction from the $100,000 originally suggested.

However, the motion died without a second during the special Vandalia Board of Aldermen meeting on Wednesday, July 27.

“The impact to the city is a secondary concern compared to the impact to the employees and the residence and their families,” Berry told the Tribune.

Two days after the Vandalia Aldermen meeting, TCCC’s Board of Directors held an emergency meeting (Friday, July 29) to determine if the nursing home could stay afloat.

After a lengthy discussion, all attending board members voted to temporarily shut the facility down.

Without the assistance from the city and after dipping into savings funds, TCCC may only have enough funds to pay employees one final check mid-August.

Now, the shorthanded staff along with the families of around 40 residents will only have 30 days to relocate before the doors are locked. It’s anticipated the building could be empty much sooner.

“The employees who are still working at TCCC are now tasked with finding another job and the remaining residents will need to find another care facility that very likely will be further away from their family and loved ones,” Berry continued.

During the Aldermen meeting, one spokesperson for TCCC told the council the facility had overspent on projects in previous years which strained their budget. Projects including a roof and sewer line replacements.

“At the end of the day, we did spend more than we took in during those projects those years,” the spokesperson said.

“If we cover that payroll for July, can you turn that negative balance into a positive balance?” an aldermen asked. “I’m concerned about the month of September. Helping you get through July into August would you be okay in September?”

“At this time, I can’t answer that because State [inspectors] haven’t came in yet?” answered one of TCCC’s representatives. “Until they come back in, I don’t know how to answer that question.”

Inspectors for a follow-up state audit were expected to show up in July to address some of the 204 deficiencies the facility has accumulated over the past few years. The audit team would review the home’s CSM audit which would determine Medicare and Medicaid certification. Not meeting the criteria could result in fines or a complete drop in state funding.

Several factors brought TCCC to this point.

A mix of several issues coupled with a decline from 60 to 40 residents since last September and nationwide nursing home staffing shortages.

The state’s last completed CSM audit conducted in March of 2022 listed several problems from resident care to financial records.

One such problem listed on page 17 of the 201-page report documented the facility’s failure to ensure resident funds were placed in an account separate from the facility operating account:

“Based on record review and interview, facility staff failed to ensure resident funds were placed in an account separate from the facility operating account and did not allow the residents/guardian the right to manage his/her financial affairs. The facility did not provide residents access to their funds as soon as possible for 20 residents.”

According to the document, the resident amount held in operating account totaled $34,890.67

“During an interview on [DATE] at 9:02 A.M., the Accounts Receivable Staff said he/she was told by the administrator not to pay any resident refunds, because the facility did not have the money and needed to pay bills, such as payroll, food, and utilities instead of resident refunds,” the report continued.

The report goes on to list observations of the deficiencies which also included procedure and labeling issues amongst the list’s 32 deficiencies—well above the state average of 9.9.

Another strike against the nursing home was for a failure “to provide care in a manner that enhanced resident dignity for three residents, in a review of 19 sampled residents.”

Another factor which could possibly be attributed to the shortage of staff.

In TCCC’s July 20 board meeting minutes, “one staff member spoke about the loss of staff and how [TCCC] is struggling to keep staff employed.”

According to those minutes, the Director of Nursing explained the staffing situation was a very crucial point where the loss of one more licensed staff member would drop the facility below state requirements.

The state audit is available to the public and can be found at the website: https://www.medicare.gov/care-compare/ and typing in Vandalia or Tri-County Care Center on the search menu.

As for the facility reopening.

“I am still hopeful that TCCC will be able to find a buyer who would purchase the facility and keep it operating in Vandalia,” Berry said.

Connie Hesse told the Tribune that TCCC’s board will meet with resident’s and their responsible party and next of kin on Wednesday, August 3, 1:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed transfer plan.

“Members of the board along with some community members are looking for a company interested in leasing/managing or perhaps purchasing the facility,” she noted.

Until one is found, Vandalia will have an empty building, residents will be further removed from family and friends, and both recent and longtime employees will be searching for employment.

Audrain County Presiding Commissioner, Alan Winders, did not respond when asked for a comment on the situation.

The People’s Tribune will update as more information becomes available. 

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