Residents Express Support For Wicomico Nursing Home; Financial Issues Plague Facility

SALISBURY –  Community members called on county officials last week to support a county-owned nursing home.

Last week, several county residents came before the Wicomico County Council to advocate for the Wicomico Nursing Home after learning the facility was experiencing financial issues.

In November, representatives of the Wicomico Nursing Home came before the county council to request a $489,320 loan to sustain operations through fiscal year 2019. At the time, officials attributed financial woes at the facility to low occupancy, personnel costs and write offs of bad debt.

At the recommendation of staff, the county council earlier this month approved a loan that would keep the facility afloat through June 30, 2019.

That decision, however, also included a discussion on possible personnel changes and capital improvements to the nursing home, as well as the need for an advisory board that would provide guidance to the enterprise fund. County officials also questioned if the facility should be privatized.

To that end, members of the community came before the county council last week in support of the Wicomico Nursing Home.

Salisbury resident Katrina Purnell said the county should do what is needed to keep the facility in operation and under county ownership.

“Wicomico County Nursing Home needs to be kept solvent,” she said.

Wicomico resident Donnie Waters noted the importance of the nursing home, which was established in the 1960s to provide services for all people, regardless of race or color.

“It is very important to the community in general, not just the African American community,” he said. “The nursing home has found a way to be a beacon of light and hope for individuals who have aged or are in the unproductive years of life and need care.”

Waters argued that lack of quality health care contributed to racial disparities in the community and said the county-owned facility provided valuable services to taxpayers.

“These people have given money into tax coffers. They’ve given their money to the general fund,” he said. “Although they are at the unproductive stage of life, they’ve given money and it’s time for the community to rally around them and be supportive and ensure their family gets the services they need.”

Wicomico resident Shanie Shields noted the Wicomico Nursing Home was one of the top-rated facilities in the county, but lacked funding for renovations.

“The Capital Improvement Plan should include the Wicomico Nursing Home,” she said. “The funding should be phased in.”

Shields added that community members in attendance wanted to see the county keep the facility.

“You can see the community wants the nursing home under the guidance of Wicomico County,” she said.

Wicomico resident Carol Ward, the relative of a nursing home resident, agreed.

“It is a big family. They care. That is a jewel to the county,” she said. “Please do not close it. Do not sell it. It would be the worst mistake.”

A nurse at the Wicomico Nursing Home said she was concerned about layoffs and possible closure.

“There are a lot of rumors going around, and we know nothing,” she said.

She asked that county officials consider the employees.

“Regardless of what decision is made, I think we need to know,” she said. “People’s livelihoods are at stake.”

Wayne Strausburg, the county’s director of administration, assured community members the county had no plans to shutter the facility, but wanted to address its shortfalls.

“We are trying to keep the nursing home open,” he said. “But we can’t keep the nursing home open if it’s losing money operationally each year. That’s attributed to a number of things.”

Strausburg said the county would need to find ways to improve the facility and its census.

“We are trying to address how to reposition this nursing home so that it can continue to operate and provide a high level of service …,” he said.

Councilman Ernie Davis thanked community members for voicing their concerns.

“I’m glad to see people come in support of the nursing home,” he said. “It’s good to see there are still people out there who have a heart for it.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.