Facility more than a century old
By Robert Cloud
Lakeview Manor in Weyauwega will be closed within 90 days.
The Waupaca County Board voted 23-1 to close the nursing home at a special meeting Monday, Jan. 9.
Diane Meulemans, corporation counsel for the county, said the facility is not supporting itself.
For the past several years, the costs to operate Lakeview Manor have exceeded revenues. Consequently, nearly $1 million in tax levy revenues have supported the facility annually for more than a decade.
The 40-bed facility has 28 residents at this time.
Muelemans also noted an ongoing staffing problem at Lakeview.
Currently, there are 60 employees at Lakeview. Only eight of them are full time.
She said the county implemented a staffing incentive program that ran for six months last year.
Incentives included wage increases, 100 percent coverage of health insurance premiums and sign on bonuses.
Waupaca County paid a total of $250,000 in 2016, yet 14 employees left.
“It didn’t do the job,” Muelemans said.
She said the committee overseeing the facility has explored other options to keep the facility open.
Among those options have been remodeling it into a community-based assisted living facility and leasing space to the veterans office to house homeless veterans. The county was unsuccessful in making any of the options work.
“This is a sad and difficult decision on closing Lakeview Manor,” said Supervisor Pat Craig, who cast the sole vote against closing the facility. “Lakeview Manor has been home to many people.”
She said Waupaca County has operated a facility to help its citizens since 1902, when a building was erected to care for the chronically insane.
In 1917, the county asylum provided a home to 80 men and 60 women.
In 1947, after the asylum became the Waupaca County Hospital, the facility housed more than 225 residents.
In 1974, Wisconsin abolished county hospitals to capture federal dollars, and they became skilled nursing facilities.
In 1977, the new facility became Lakeview Manor and had 103 residents.
Craig said many of Lakeview’s staff have been loyal, long-term employees.
“The top five senior employees have served us for 136 years,” she said.
Craig responded to comments that Lakeview Manor competes with privately owned nursing homes.
“If the highway department wants to be a construction department, do we not have private companies like Faulks Bros. and American Asphalt and others that are construction companies and should do the work?” she asked.
She noted that private companies provide security services, private campgrounds and storage facilities. Should the county rely on private companies rather than provide these as public services, she asked.
“This decision isn’t about just the money,” Craig said. “It should be about the staff and residents and our purpose.”
County Board Chairman Dick Koeppen said the facility is currently costing taxpayers nearly $25,000 per resident.
He noted Wisconsin has one of the lowest federal reimbursement rates for nursing homes in the country.
“Waupaca County is saturated with nursing home beds,” Koeppen said. “Our expenses keep going up.”