SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When Good Samaritan nursing homes close in Lennox and Clear Lake this month it will leave empty facilities in both cities.
“One of the things, when we first heard of the pending closure, was we wanted to make sure that if the building is vacant, we want it to be cared for,” said Nate Vander Plaats, the city administrator in Lennox. “Good Samaritan has been very good and very clear that they intend to take care of it.”
City officials in Lennox also hope there will be a future use for the facility.
“We have an interest that it be used for the best and highest use,” Vander Plaats said. But, “It’s really not our decision…”
Good Samaritan did not provide any details on the possible future use of the facilities in Lennox or Clear Lake.
“We are currently exploring options for future uses of the properties,” the health care organization’s vice president of operations, Aimee Middleton, said in an email to KELOLAND News.
Officials from the Deuel Area Development Inc. declined to comment about the nursing home facility in Clear Lake, citing on-going negotiations related to it.
The city of Lennox is willing to work with a possible new owner or user of the building, even if it’s not a health care provider, Vander Plaats said.
Yet, there are not many incentives available in South Dakota that the city can offer, he said. A non-health care user could possibly qualify for a tax abatement incentive, he said. That would apply to a owner that pays taxes, Vander Plaats said.
Ron Huber who owns businesses in Lennox and is a member of the Lennox Area Development Corporation said the community was surprised when the closure was announced.
“It will be sad to see it go,” Huber said. “It’s unfortunate for the people who live there and a tough, tough, thing to deal with.” That includes the people who worked there who may not have to leave town for a job, he said.
The change for residents and staff has already been completed in Lennox, according to Good Samaritan.
“We have safely transitioned all Good Samaritan Society – Lennox residents to new care homes. The majority of Lennox residents and staff transitioned to nearby (Good Sam) locations, with many residents receiving services from the same caregivers,” Middleton said in her email.
The transition in Clear Lake continued as of July 5.
“Transition plans are in place for the small number of remaining residents at Good Samaritan Society – Deuel County, and all transfers will occur before operations close. Resident and staff transitions in Clear Lake have included moves to nearby (Good Sam) locations,” Middleton said in the email.
Middleton cited challenges with retaining and hiring staff as one reason the facilities needed to close. Medicaid reimbursements in South Dakota that do not keep pace with the cost of care as a major reason that it Good Samaritan was not able to continue operating nursing homes in Lennox and Clear Lake.
“We appreciate Governor Noem’s recent temporary increase in Medicaid reimbursements for long-term care providers in the state of South Dakota, but the reality is that we need permanent funding solutions to support and address our workforce and resident care needs now and in the future,” Middleton said in the email.
Huber said the facility in Lennox should attract a new owner or user, particularly in the health care field.
Both he and Vander Plaats said the economy in Lennox is healthy. But, Vander Plaats said, “Anytime there are fewer people in town, it’s going to have an impact on our sales tax. Our sales tax are growing by 20% but it’s still going to have an impact.”
Visitors to the nursing home won’t be buying gas or meals in town anymore, and employees may now buy item out of town instead of in Lennox, he said as examples of how spending habits may change.