Ecumen VP: St. Mark’s measures up

Published 10:38 am Thursday, July 14, 2011

The St. Mark’s Family Council held a public meeting June 29 to discuss concerns about the quality of care at St. Mark’s and recent state reports. -- Herald file photo

Despite numerous people voicing concerns about state reports and the quality of care at St. Mark’s Lutheran Home, the home’s managing firm is maintaining that the facility is well run.

“Nursing homes in Minnesota aren’t cookie cutters, so how they measure in regulatory reports will differ,” Ecumen’s Senior Vice President of Operations Michael Finn wrote in an e-mail. “Every site is different in size, complexity, service and care needs, and how it is surveyed by regulators.”

Concerns about the quality of care at St. Mark’s have been fueled by reports through the Minnesota Department of Health. Finn, who was not available for a phone interview, wrote the company works hard to respond to customer concerns.

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“Our focus is foremost on the satisfaction of the customers we serve, not on the stars we receive in rankings,” he wrote.

At a June 29 meeting, more than 100 people voiced concerns about the quality of care and the leadership at St. Mark’s.

Many in the audience expressed displeasure that no administration or Ecumen officials attended the meeting, aside from board of directors.

While Family Council officials said they invited administrative leaders, Finn said Ecumen officials were not invited.

“Our understanding was this was a meeting scheduled with the board, not a meeting with Ecumen,” he wrote.

A May 11 Quality Indicator Survey cited St. Mark’s for nine deficiencies, including understaffing.

St. Mark’s received two out of five stars for “resident quality of life ratings” on a MDH nursing home report card. The state average is three stars. St. Mark’s also received two stars for “state inspection results,” compared to a four and half star state average.

The state also traces complaints. Since January of 2008, five substantiated complaints were filed against St. Mark’s. No other nursing home in Mower County has had more than one during that period. Another eight inconclusive complaints were filed against St. Mark’s. Two inconclusive claims have been filed against Adam’s Health Care Center, the only other facility with more than one in the county.

Finn said the company responds promptly to concerns from the public and clients.

“Every situation is different, but our response is not,” Finn wrote. “We respond to customer concerns and when we make a mistake, we work to correct it and learn from it.”

Also troubling to many attending the meeting was how St. Mark’s fared compared to other Ecumen run facilities. The Austin home ranked at the bottom of many state and federal surveys compared to other facilities.

Heather Rysavy, a former supervisor in charge of activities at St. Mark’s, said many employees were excited when Ecumen took over. But she said the ideas and benefits workers expected never came.

“We saw beautiful places, great ideas, great policies. They had a lot of great things. That stuff never came here,” she said.

Finn maintained that St. Mark’s is as strong as any Ecumen facility in the state.

“We have high-quality people who provide great care at St. Mark’s,” Finn wrote. “Many people locally can attest to that. Ecumen is highly respected for the quality of care it provides in Minnesota, and I would put St. Mark’s up against any of our other sites in terms of quality.”

Despite the concerns, Ecumen is looking to the future. St. Mark’s is expected to begin a building project to add more assisted living rooms and reduce the number of nursing home beds. The number of long-term care residents has decreased from around 100 to about 70.

“We’re excited about the new housing and service options we’re embarking on at St. Mark’s,” he wrote. “For some, change is difficult. But it’s essential to the future of St. Mark’s and senior services in Austin.”

The move will also decrease the number of St. Mark’s care workers.