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In this undated image from the McLean County website, residents sit in the courtyard in front of the McLean County Nursing Home in Normal. 

For The Pantagraph

NORMAL — To boost McLean County Nursing Home resident numbers and reverse financial losses, community leaders in health and human services are meeting to recommend improvements at the Normal facility.

"My hope is they will give us guidelines to improve our operations so we can continue to have a nursing home," McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre said Monday. "There is a need in our county for a county nursing home."

McIntyre asked 10 people with experience in health and human services to voluntarily serve on the blue ribbon panel. The panel's first meeting was Thursday, and McIntyre said he hopes the panel will present a report to the County Board executive committee on April 10.

"I think it's great," nursing home Administrator Cindy Wegner said of the panel's formation. "I hope we can come up with a plan to improve the census and make improvements at the facility so it can stay open."

The nursing home, 901 N. Main St., Normal, is a 150-bed, skilled care facility, with 100 beds certified for Medicare residents and 50 for private pay or Medicaid, Wegner said.

From 2013 to fall 2017, the number of residents declined from about 130 to 101.

Wegner blamed the census drop on an increasing number of people opting for assisted living or remaining in their homes, the nursing home not being a member of either Bloomington-Normal hospital's skilled care network and a perception of some people that the nursing home is an older facility for poor people.

In the past year, the nursing home has lost $1.2 million, McIntyre and Wegner said. The declining number of residents and slow Medicaid reimbursement are two reasons, Wegner said.

"We can't continue to operate with that kind of a loss," McIntyre said.

Good news is the census has stabilized and was at 102 residents on Monday and the nursing home recently received a Four-Star Rating on the CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) Five-Star Quality Rating System, "which means we provide quality care," Wegner said.

The County Board has asked for proposals from consultants willing to suggest improvements at the nursing home. But McIntyre hopes the panel will provide recommendations for free so hiring a consultant won't be necessary.

"A few County Board members want to close it (the nursing home)," he said. "But I think we can get this turned around."

Members of the blue ribbon panel are AJ Querciagrossa, president and CEO of OSF Home Care Services; Doug Brown, post-acute network-clinical operations manager for Advocate at Home; Mike O'Donnell, executive director of Illinois Community Health and Aging Collaborative; Roger Hunt, retired CEO of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center; Sonja Reece, Advocate BroMenn director of health facilities planning; Catherine Miller, retired dean of Illinois State University's Mennonite College of Nursing; Rose Stadel, retired vice president of Heritage Enterprises; Russ Hagen, retired CEO of Chestnut Health Systems; Al Azinger, retired ISU administrator; and Barb Nathan, CEO of Westminster Village.

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Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Editor

Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

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