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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — As of January 1, the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center has converted to assisted living 12 skilled nursing beds and 12 short-term care beds for rehabilitation care, but the facility is still offering rehabilitation care.
The change involved converting 12 of the 40 skilled nursing beds in the long-term care unit and the 12 short-term care beds in Birch Lane to assisted living, said Jill Gengler, administrator at CHRC.
Birch Lane had previously been a separate unit with its own dining room dedicated for short-term rehabilitation care after surgery or injuries.
The Community Based Residential Facility/assisted living unit is intended for people who have few health problems but need some supervision and assistance.
“I think the opinion [in the community] is we don’t do short-term care anymore. That’s not true at all. That’s the message I’m trying to get across,” Gengler said.
“I’m sure that’s what they are thinking. Birch is closed, so we don’t do short-term rehab anymore. That’s a logical conclusion, but that’s not the case,” she said.
“We’ve had people go elsewhere for rehab because they assumed we don’t have it anymore,” Gengler said.
Sometimes people do not understand the difference between a “nursing home” and “assisted living,” Gengler noted.
A nursing home is a place where people are admitted for long-term skilled nursing care. Many times people do not have the health problems that require the monitoring and the nursing skills for the long-term care unit, so it is more appropriate for them to go into the assisted living/CBRF unit, she said.
“We are seeing [facilities] around the state converting some of their long-term care beds to assisted living. The assisted living [facilities] are the nursing homes of yesterday,” she said.
In years past, when CHRC was located at the old facility on High Street and previously operated under the name of Area Nursing Home, many of the residents who lived there would be in the assisted living unit today at the facility on Park Drive.
The Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center can be thought of as different facilities: Ridge Crest Manor Assisted Living, which is the CBRF unit; Sandy Ridge Assisted Living Apartments; the skilled nursing and long-term care unit and the rehabilitation unit.
“Ideally, we would like to have one of the hallways dedicated to short-term (rehabilitation) care, but we’re not there yet. Over time, we will start to do that,” Gengler said.
In the original short-term care wing, people had their own dining room.
Now, “people can either eat in their neighborhood or they can come down to The Square and have a more restaurant-style experience and eat with folks who are from the assisted living or from any part of the building,” Gengler said.
Colfax Health and Rehab most definitely has rooms available for short-term rehabilitation care even though the facility no longer has a dedicated wing for short-term care, Gengler said.
“If you’re going to have surgery, it’s a good idea to let us know when you’re going into the hospital so we can save a bed for you. A lot of folks do that. They’ll call and say, ‘I’m having my knee replaced next month and I want to come to you for some rehab.’ Then we say, ‘we’ll put you on the calendar to make sure one of those beds are for you,’” she said.
“Sometimes people end up going right home, and that’s okay. But we want to make sure that people who are from Colfax have a spot in Colfax,” Gengler said.
Out-patient therapy is still available as well.
“That’s going strong. Folks who leave here after a short stay come back and complete their therapy by coming in here a couple of times a week,” Gengler said.
Even though Colfax Health and Rehab might be out of a particular insurance company’s network does not mean people from the Colfax area cannot go there for rehabilitation care.
“We are working more with insurance than we have before. People have a Medicare Advantage plan, and they have certain requirements, and we have to get pre-authorization. They are more involved in the patient plan of care than traditional Medicare is. So we work with several insurance companies,” Gengler said.
“We might be ‘out of network,’ but don’t let that scare you. A lot of times, they can negotiate a rate that is pretty similar, and it might be worth your while so you don’t have to drive to Eau Claire to be in network,” Gengler said.
“We have had out-of-network stays approved because other nursing homes do not have space or don’t have staff or are not in a position where they can admit someone,” she said.
“We have definitely had out of network patients here and charge the same amount. Sometimes that can be worked out. It’s a case by case basis. It’s not up to us. It’s up to the insurance company, but they’ve been fairly easy to work with, depending on which one you have,” Gengler said.
“I want the word to be out there that we are open for business and things are going great. We are happy we made the change (to more assisted living),” she said.