Sanford Health has agreed to gift the Good Samaritan Society nursing home building in Mott to the city instead of selling it with a restriction that it can’t be used for health care purposes, but it’s likely the facility will still be forced to close this summer.
“We can’t get a plan together in 60 days,” Mayor Troy Mosbrucker said after a meeting between city leaders and Sanford officials. “We’re going to try like hell, but there are a lot of steps we’ve got to do and a lot of hurdles to get over.”
The city’s “goal is health care,” but what form that takes isn’t yet known, he said. “We want a plan in place so when we get the building we can move forward.”
The Good Samaritan Society, which merged with Sanford Health in 2019, late last month announced that it would close the skilled nursing facility in Mott on July 22 because it’s not sustainable long term. The home has 55 employees and 31 residents, and the announcement angered the southwestern community of 700 people.
The city in a statement last week called the building sale restriction “extremely disheartening and devastating” and said it was “dedicated to pursuing and exploring additional options through our legal counsel.”
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Gov. Doug Burgum late Tuesday released a statement saying he and state Department of Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones had spoken with Sanford President and CEO Bill Gassen, who offered to gift the facility rather than sell it.
“The Good Samaritan Society is an important employer and health care provider for Mott and the surrounding region, and we appreciate Sanford’s willingness to work with the community on options for the facility and long-term care in the Mott area,” Burgum said.
The Good Samaritan Society is “committed to a seamless transition and we offered our support and will continue to provide guidance as they determine potential next steps with the building,” Vice President of Operations Aimee Middleton said after the meeting.
“Closing a skilled nursing location is always a last resort and we recognize this is a very difficult situation for the community,” she said. “In Mott, it has been extremely challenging to hire and retain nursing staff, which makes it very hard to maintain the high-quality, safe care our residents need and deserve.”
Good Samaritan Society Regional Executive Director Phil Samuelson told the Tribune last week that the coronavirus pandemic has put stress on the senior care industry. He said staffing challenges, a decline in residents and increased operating costs also contributed to the decision to close the Mott facility.
He said restrictions on the future use of a property are put in place “in situations like this one when long-term care facilities face ongoing challenges such as difficulty hiring staff and increased operating costs.”
North Dakota has had a moratorium on adding nursing home beds for decades to align capacity to need. That means the Mott beds could not be shifted elsewhere if the facility remained open.
Mosbrucker said the city will be “looking at different possibilities to provide medical services to Mott using that building.”
Residents of the nursing home likely will be moving to facilities in area communities including Richardton, Glen Ullin, Elgin, Hettinger and Dickinson, according to Mosbrucker.
“It’s a big challenge,” the mayor of 19 years said. “But we’ll get through it. The people in Mott are fighters.”