Iron County Medical Care Facility Administrator Chester Pintarelli takes State Representatives Ed McBroom (left) and Matt Huuki (right) on a tour of the facility. They are standing in a section of the facility that has not been upgraded since the mid-1970s.
CRYSTAL FALLS TOWNSHIP—State Representatives Matt Huuki (110th District) and Ed McBroom (108th District) toured the Iron County Medical Care Facility Feb. 6, learning about the $9.1 million expansion project planned for this year.
ICMCF Administrator Chester Pintarelli told the representatives this was the fourth building project at the facility since 1995, when it added 20 beds.
In 2002, the Victorian Heights assisted living wing added 25 apartments. In 2005, 71 beds were added, bringing the total number to 200.
One wing slated for renovation has not been upgraded since 1976, he added.
The current project will not add any beds; it will reconfigure two areas of care—special needs and short term rehabilitation.
Iron County Medical Care Facility, he said, is one of the, if not the, largest employer in the county, with 220-230 employees. Its administration is currently completing its application with USDA Rural Development, planning to finance $5.1 of the project through the agency.
The facility will contribute $4 million.
Pintarelli said 80 to 85 percent of revenue for the facility is received from Medicaid, 11 percent from Medicare and the rest from private pay.
The facility operates at about 97 percent capacity, which will change with the reconfiguration, increasing occupancy to 44 beds in the special needs wing.
The facility has been turning patients away in this area, he said, and those patients are going elsewhere, taking the revenue with them.
The project will also add jobs, he said.
Huuki, who serves on the House Health Policy Committee, and McBroom, a member of the Regulatory Reform Committee, also heard from Pintarelli and members of the county’s Department of Human Services board, about state regulations that are affecting some areas of operation.
“State regulations are hindering staff effectiveness,” explained John Archocosky, a member of the Social Services Board. It’s a statewide problem, added DHS Chairman Bill Leonoff.
Examples of how state regulations are frustrating to staff include responses to allegations of abuse, particularly among confused, disoriented or combative patients, who may not understand staff restraint or intervention.
Any allegation of abuse must be reported, with suspension of the worker without pay before the allegation is even investigated.
Workers could also be suspended for not interfering.
“It’s frustrating for our CNAs,” said Human Resources Director Teresa Ollila. “Sometimes they’re afraid to come to work.”
“We’re here to protect a vulnerable population,” Pintarelli said.
“They [state regulators] come in with the attitude that ‘you’re wrong’,” added Leonoff. “It’s gotten out of control.”
McBroom asked Pintarelli and the DHS board to provide some documentation of the problem.
“Where did it start, can you pinpoint certain legislation?” he asked.
Both he and Huuki told Pintarelli and the board they would do research on the issue.