Illinois Public Media News
(Editor's note: CU-CitizenAccess.org is taking an in-depth look at nursing homes in Central Illinois. Earlier this week, we sat down with Chuck Schuette, the new administrator for the Champaign County Nursing Home to discuss his plans to tackle the challenges facing the county's nursing home (see interview below). For more on this project and interactive tools you can use to evaluate nursing homes in your area, tune in to Illinois Public Media or visit CU-CitizenAccess.org on Monday, Dec. 5. Want to be part of the project or have a story to share about a nursing home experience in East Central Illinois? Contact reporters Dan Petrella or Pam G. Dempsey)
For Effingham native Chuck Schuette, running a nursing home has always been the plan.
So when he saw the chance to oversee a nursing home, he took it.
Schuette, the new Champaign County Nursing Home administrator, started his new job Oct. 31. He replaced Andrew Buffenbarger, who served as the County Nursing Home administrator since 2004.
Schuette, 59, worked as the chief nursing officer for 24 years at St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham.
"Coming from an acute-care background, I did get some experience, because at the hospital we developed a skilled-care unit and in regards to that, I went and got my long-term care nursing home license (in 1995)," he said. "I kept it all these years with the idea that one day I would go into long-term care."
Schuette has his work cut out for him.
Like other nursing homes in the area, the Champaign County Nursing Home has faced several challenges in recent years: late payments from the state, numerous complaint investigations by the Illinois Department of Public Health and difficulty in managing staff retention.
The nursing home is also rated overall two out of five stars on a federal Medicare compare site (see http://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare). The overall federal rating is a combination of the health inspection rating, the staffing rating, and the quality measures rating.
A little more than three years ago, the Champaign County Board contracted with Management Performance Associates, a St. Louis-based firm, to provide day-to-day management oversight for the operation of the nursing home, said Deb Busey, Champaign County administrator.
Since the contract began in 2008, the nursing home's finances improved, as had its patient count, county officials said. The County Board renewed its contract with the management firm in June.
Buffenbarger is moving to a new position within Management Performance Associates.
Schuette (pronounced shoot-y) said that while this is his first job heading a nursing home, "I am excited, enthused and happy to be here."
"The big difference in acute care is you only see the patients three or four days max," he said," and here people are here for the rest of their lives, for many cases. That is really an advantage. You really get to know the people and know the families and it's kind of a community."
In the transition from acute care to long-term care, Schuette said the largest "culture shock" comes from the delay in state reimbursement payments.
"It should be fine, but it's scary," Schuette said. "I think about it constantly, 'Are you going to have enough money?' "
But with other nursing homes facing similar pressure, "somehow they get through it, and I'm going to learn how they get through it over the next few months."
His to-do list is long. One of his priorities includes bolstering the nursing staff.
"Nurses just aren't being valued for what they really are and what they can offer people, and I want to try and make sure that is sensed here and the nurses feel that here and hopefully nurses will say, 'This is where we want to work,' " Schuette said.
The staffing level at the nursing home is "higher than what is required for regulatory compliance," he said, and he hopes to keep it that way.
"We're maintaining that and keeping it at a higher level of staffing," Schuette said. "Will we then be forced to go down to minimum regulatory standards? I'm getting the sense we won't have to go in that direction. ... We'll probably never drop down to minimum staffing levels."
Resident safety is another priority.
"We want to make sure we endeavor to be regulatory compliant," he said. "This is a heavily regulated industry and for good reason, it needs to be that way. We're talking about the safety of our residents. I want to really work on that, to make sure that each and every time we are surveyed, that we are actually reducing the number of tags and that we are really spending a lot of time making sure we are in compliance and our residents are safe."
Schuette has spent the past 10 days settling into the job and says he'll develop more goals and strategies over the next three months.
"I think we have the things here to do it and do it well," he said. "It's going to take leadership ... my real job is trying to be a leader and motivate people to a higher performance. That's what I hope to do."
(Produced by Sean Powers/WILL)
Republican Mayor Greg Ballard is pledging to keep Indianapolis moving forward following his election to a second term.
The Indianapolis Star reports Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy called Ballard just before 9 p.m. Tuesday to concede the hotly contested race.
Ballard led Kennedy by about 7,000 votes with 92 percent of precincts reporting. Libertarian Chris Bowen was a distant third.
Ballard first won election in 2007 with a surprise victory over Kennedy's boss, Democratic incumbent Bart Peterson. Peterson was the only Indianapolis mayor to lose a re-election bid since many city and government services merged under Uni-Gov in 1970.
Ballard's tenure has been highlighted by sales of the city's water and parking systems to make them more efficient but has been rocked by controversies in the police department.
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Tuesday in Champaign to mark the opening of a new dental clinic for low-income, uninsured, and Medicaid eligible patients.
Located at the Francis Nelson Health Center, the 1,000 square-foot clinic seeks to treat about 2,500 people within the next year. Nancy Greenwalt is the director of Smile Healthy, a community-based initiative to provide dental care to the undeserved. She said in addition to having a dentist, three full-time dental assistants, and two part-time hygienists on staff, the clinic also has volunteer translators who speak both Spanish and English.
"Dental care is a procedure, and the patients need to understand what's going on - payment, contact information," said Greenwalt, who noted that up to 40 percent of the patients at the Francis Nelson Health Center speak Spanish. "It's just not possible without the translation services."
Smile Healthy operates another program that provides dental care for children. According to the United Way of Champaign County, that program has over 200 additional children waiting for care. All are 200 percent of the poverty level or below, and most are on Medicaid.
United Way President Lyn Jones said the clinic is needed more than ever.
"There are people who are missing work because of dental problems, causing extreme pain," Jones said. "This really will improve the overall health of citizens in Champaign County."
According to the United Way, at the time when the Francis Nelson dental clinic opened on Oct. 17, about a thousand people were on a waiting list for cavity fillings, teeth extraction, and other dental care.
More than half a million dollars in donations were used to start up the clinic, and the United Way of Champaign County hopes to raise approximately $50,000 to sustain dental services.
The cost of using the clinic's services will be determined on a sliding scale based on a person's income. Medicare does not cover dental costs.
The clinic is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 819 Bloomington Road in Champaign.
Other Champaign County groups offering dental service to low-income people include the Champaign County Christian Health Center, Champaign County Healthcare Consumers, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, and the Parkland College Dental Hygiene Program.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Republican Duke Bennett has ended a losing streak for incumbent mayors in Terre Haute.
Residents in the western Indiana city elected Bennett for a second term Tuesday after four predecessors lost re-election bids. According to unofficial results reported by WTHI TV, Bennett received 69 percent of the vote Tuesday with 92 percent of precincts reporting.
Democrat Fred Nation, an Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive, received 31 percent of the vote. Bennett won by just more than 100 votes four years ago.
Bennett told voters he was a leader who could make tough decisions, saying he had cut the city's budget. Nation was a former press secretary for then-Gov. Evan Bayh. He had campaigned on a promise of creating jobs.
Like other nursing homes, the Champaign County Nursing Home has faced delays in state payments, numerous complaint investigations and trouble with staff retention. The Champaign County board hired a management firm to address these problems in 2008, and a week ago a new administrator stepped in at the nursing home. Effingham native Chuck Schuette replaced former administrator Andrew Buffenbarger, who took another position within the management firm. Schuette spoke with CU-CitizenAccess reporter Pam Dempsey about his plans for the job.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
U.S. Rep. Mike Pence is consulting "The Donald'' as he kicks his run for governor of Indiana into gear.
Pence spent Tuesday morning in New York meeting with Donald Trump. At one point both men considered running for the Republican presidential nomination but both opted out. Pence is running instead for governor.
A Pence spokesman did not say what the two talked about and said Pence is deeply committed to Republicans running in Indiana's 2011 elections across the state Tuesday.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said Pence should have spent Election Day campaigning for Hoosiers rather than meeting with Trump.
Pence has touted his work for local candidates in the 2011 campaign as he works to connect with Hoosiers statewide after spending the last decade representing the 6th District in Washington.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
An Illinois House committee has approved a new, smaller gambling plan that backers hope can survive a threatened veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.
It passed 8-2. Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said the measure could be changed even more before a vote by the full House. Lawmakers approved a major gambling expansion during the spring legislative session. But they never bothered sending the bill to Quinn out of fear that he would veto it.
The Democratic governor has a number of concerns, particularly the idea of allowing slot machines at horse racing tracks. After the governor panned it, Lang pushed for the smaller proposal. The new proposal would still allow slots at racetracks but not at Chicago airports. It also lowers the amount of growth allowed for existing casinos.
"I'm sure even the governor would say we have made a good faith effort to match up some of the governor would agree good faith effort to match up some of our ideas with some of his ideas," Lang said.
However, despite the changes Lang said he still expects the governor will oppose it.
The lure of additional gambling in Illinois has some communities on opposite sides of the issue.
When riverboat gambling was legalized more than 20 years ago, it was sold as a way to boost tourism and the sagging economies in certain towns. Now communities like Rockford, Danville, even Chicago want in on the action. The idea of a quaint trip gambling down the river is long gone. It is all about money and jobs.
"We fit in that original description of an economically depressed community," Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said. "I'm not happy to say that but what i am happy to do is to stand here and fight for an opportunity to bring jobs to our community."
The city is one of five that would be allowed to add gambling under a package being considered at the capitol. An earlier effort met resistance from Gov. Quinn and mayors whose towns already have casinos. Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said his town has used proceeds from gaming on projects.
"We built a police station, we built a recreation center, and those days will be rapidly disappearing for us," Kaptain said.
Kaptain also raised concerns about slot machines at horse tracks, which he says would take money from existing casinos.
A 5-year old mass transit district that started up to keep Champaign-Urbana's MTD from expanding could take some time before asking its voters what level of bus service they want, if any.
Board members with the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District suggest they may wait until November 2012 to place an advisory referendum on ballots. Southwest MTD chairman Ed Vaughan says its board needs the time before then to come up with an education campaign.
"And it makes more sense doing it then because you get a bigger turnout at the election, and we get a much larger sample of our electorate by using the November election," he said. "So we're able to hear what they want."
At Monday night's Southwest MTD board meeting, Vaughan cited a recent meeting with about 80 residents of the Lincolnshire Fields subdivision. He says two people indicated they want more bus service, while 25 said they wanted none. The Southwest MTD board Monday night delayed a formal vote on the referendum, as well as its tax levy ordinance until December. Vaughan says it's possible that levy could go down, since its primary expenses have been legal, and that fight is over.
The Southwest MTD was left in limbo after Illinois' Supreme Court last spring refused to hear its legal battle with the Champaign-Urbana MTD, saying both transit districts could co-exist. Meanwhile, there's still a chance the two could contract service together. A letter to Vaughan from CU-MTD manager Bill Volk says a specific proposal would be needed for any additional services. And he says whatever service the CUMTD would provide would need to be 'in concert with the adopted Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study's Long-Range Transportation Plan' (CUUATS.)
The Southwest MTD Board meets next December 8th.
Champaign County citizens will choose an auditor next year in the March primaries and the November election, and at least four candidates have been collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows reports.
Champaign County citizens will choose an auditor next year in the March primaries and the November election, and at least four candidates have been collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot.
The auditor's office has been a controversial one in Champaign County. A referendum to eliminate the office as an elected post was on the ballot last April --- voters turned it down, by a vote of 57 percent to 43 percent. The question was put on the ballot, after News-Gazette reports in 2009 that analyzed phone and email records to conclude that current auditor Tony Fabri spent little time at the auditor's office.
In response, Fabri said he is a full-time auditor, even if he is not always at work. Fabri resigned his chairmanship in the Champaign County Democratic Party so he could devote more time to the auditor's job. And, as his first full term draws to a close, the controversy has brought out other candidates for auditor, who have joined the chorus of Fabri's critics.
John Farney of Urbana, the only declared Republican candidate, works in the county clerk's office. He is a GOP precinct committee member, who ran unsuccessfully for a Champaign County Board seat in 2006. Farney said Fabri doesn't stack up to Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, who won a close election 35 years ago to become the first in an unbroken string of Democratic Champaign County auditors.
"I remember if you wanted to see Republicans on the county board pulling their hair out and red-faced, it was because Laurel Prussing was questioning the way they did things," Farney said. "That's what we need in the auditor's office, somebody that's willing to go out and ask those questions and make people defend the way they're spending the taxpayer's money."
Farney said he would draw on his experience in the county clerk's office, and his prior experience as a newspaper reporter to make sure he gets the answers he needs about county finances.
Farney may have the least experience with numbers and finances of all the declared candidates for auditor.
But none of the candidates claim they would do the actual auditing if elected. Democrat George Danos of Champaign, whose financial background includes jobs in the healthcare and insurance industries, said he would work to make sure county government is fiscally responsible, based on the recommendations of his staff.
"They're there 8-to-5, crunching numbers," Danos said. "When issues come up, that are political in nature, or involve a conflict of interest, that is the duty of the county auditor, to engage in collaboration or confrontation along those lines."
When Republicans dominated Champaign County government, it was easier for a Democratic auditor to say they would protect the county from the other party's fiscal mistakes. But with more Democrats in county government today, the current candidates all say party affiliation doesn't define them.
Ben Carlson of Champaign is a self-described conservative Democrat who works in the insurance industry.
"No party affiliation should be where the auditor's at. It's not about whether I'm a Democrat or a Republican," Carlson said. "It's about working together with the other county board members and the team in the office, as well as in the county."
Another issue the auditor candidates come together on is the need for greater public transparency. One popular idea is putting county financial records online. Democrat Kevin Sandefur of Royal said he wants to put information online that is easy for people to search through and understand.
"You don't want to be creating extra work for the people in the auditor's office," Sandefur said. "They already are doing an outstanding job under the circumstances. But I think that if you had somebody who actually showed up for work, then they would be able to pick up some of that slack, in terms of making the information available to the public."
In an email to Illinois Public Media earlier this month, current auditor Tony Fabri said he did not yet have a "solid answer" on whether he'll seek re-election. If Fabri decides to run for auditor again, it is not too late. The window for submitting ballot petitions to the county clerk for the March primary is Nov. 28 through Dec. 5.
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