“There are no words to describe how hard it was to watch this all unravel. It was heartbreaking.”
That is how Nadine Alexander, a 29-year employee at the Mobridge care center, described the final months of the facility’s life in this community.
“It was an emotional roller-coaster,” she said. “The staff went through a grieving process just as if we lost members of our own families.”
Those residents, their families and the staff were a family according to Alexander. When the shock of the announcement that Golden Living Centers was closing this facility wore off, the reality of the situation sunk in to the employees.
In November, the staff was informed that the facility would be closing, the residents would have to find new homes and the staff new jobs. Alexander said the announcement was compassionless and cold, leaving the staff in shock.
Although it was difficult situation in which to work, watching residents being shipped out during the dead of winter, sometimes in weather that was not fit for travel, most members of the staff were in for the long haul. They waited until the last resident had found new homes. They then cleaned and organized the building before they left for the last time.
“It was an awful process, but we tried to keep a good attitude for the residents,” said Alexander. “Each day the residents worried about where they would have to go. They had hope until the very last minute that it would stay open.”
Alexander said some of the residents only knew the center as their home. They had no relatives that regularly came to see them and the staff was their family.
“It was so hard to see roommates that had been together for years, torn apart and be shipped off to different parts of the state,” she said. “Every time a resident went out that door, it was like a little piece of me went with them.”
Alexander started working at the facility between her junior and senior years of high school. She said many of the high school students worked part-time at the facility, helping with meals and general resident care. It went from a part-time job into a full-fledged career.
“I know I made a difference in the lives of the residents,” she said. “These are people who helped to build out community and had businesses here. They made a difference in our lives.”
Alexander said she never thought that she would be at the job for as long as she was, but realized caring for elders was her calling and although it was a tough job it was very rewarding.
When the facility began to empty day by day, Alexander said the reality was crushing for the staff.
“I was literally watching my world, my family, my friends, my life disappear,” she said. “I was worried about the residents’ loved ones and what they were going to do. This was their lives, too.”
She said those who didn’t have a loved one in the center or were not involved with the facility, probably do not grasp the understanding of what the closing of the facility means to the community.
“But this is not about me,” she said. “This about the people of our community and the surrounding communities. They are away from their loved ones in places that are new to them.”
She said it wasn’t just the day-to-day care of the residents that the facility provided, but a place where members of the community could heal and get the rehabilitation they needed. It was the importance of services provided by the staff of the facility, that will have a huge impact on the community.
“There has to be an economic impact to our area,” she said. “And what about the future? What are the people who are aging in our community going to do when their family can’t take care of their needs every day?”
The Mobridge facility was opened in September of 1968 as a 71-bed facility and was known as the Mobridge Care Center. In 1978, a 56-bed addition was added, bringing the total capacity to 127 beds and it became a state certified facility.
The center was owned by several health care companies, including Beverly Healthcare, Golden Living Centers and most recently Skyline Enterprises in 2017.
Although there were signs of trouble before Skyline took control, it was under their ownership that visible problems began to occur.
Alexander said they didn’t run out of food or medications as was experienced in other facilities under the Skyline management, but there were delays in pay and interrupted service for lack of payment. When it was discovered that Skyline had been taking money out of employee’s checks for insurance but not paying the premiums, the staff knew something was very wrong.
The State of South Dakota stepped in and on May 1, 2018, nineteen South Dakota healthcare facilities that Skyline owned were put into the receivership of Black Hills Receiver LLC.
Alexander said things began to run more smoothly at that point.
But when it was announced on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in order to stabilize nursing facilities where “imminent risks to the care and safety of the residents” had been reported earlier this year, Golden Living would be closing the care facilities in Mobridge and Madison.
The Receivership stated in its announcement that 19 nursing facilities in South Dakota were “operating at a significant and unsustainable loss,” according to court documents. That is a combined loss of approximately $7.7 million. By closing the two with the most significant losses, Mobridge and Madison, the receiver is hoping to maintain operations in other facilities.
That began the process of finding new homes for the residents and finding new jobs for the staff.
On Thursday, Jan. 31, the doors to the facility closed for the last time.
Recently Alexander took a road trip to visit several residents in their new homes.
“Some are doing really well, some are not,” she said. “Some asked if they can come home.”
Alexander said the look on their faces when they first saw her was “priceless” to her.
She said many skilled staff members have found new jobs in the area, but some have had to move out of town to find new jobs. Others, like the kitchen staff, janitors and therapists are still looking.
She has not decided what she will do but is weighing several options.
“My future is just kind of a blur right now,” she said. “But we have to have find someway to bring back a care center to our community. We can’t fix what was broken and taken away, but we need to look to our future and figure something out.”
No information has been released about what Golden Living plans on doing with the building, but it is rumored to be for sale.
– Katie Zerr –