Fixes for Lasata staffing woes working, officials say

Bonuses, short-term contracts among strategies that are proving effective at county’s senior living campus
Ozaukee Press staff

Efforts to improve staffing at the Ozaukee County-owned Lasata Senior Living Campus in Cedarburg are working, Ozaukee County officials were told Tuesday.

In the last two months, 18 full-time certified nursing assistants have been hired and five part-timers were being added on Tuesday, Lasata Campus Finance Manager Chris Kuemmerlein told members of the Health and Human Services Committee, which oversees the county-owned facility for seniors.

The county in January began offering $11,500 bonuses to nurses and $2,500 bonuses to CNAs, paid out in four payments over the first year of employment, Kuemmerlein said.

Nurses are paid up to $42.31 per hour while CNAs are paid $20.80 per hour to start, according to the Lasata website.

In addition, Lasata also began offering six-week contracts at a higher pay rate with no benefits to allow new hires to ascertain whether they would like working there long term, she said.

“We’re sort of operating our own temp service,” she said. “It’s gone really well,” with most of those who try the six weeks staying on.”

With those efforts in place, there are currently nine full-time openings and four part-time openings, compared to as many as 40 or 50 openings at a time in recent years, County Administrator Jason Dzwinel said.

“The number of staff openings is historically low,” Dzwinel told committee members.

That’s in stark contrast to recent years. In 2020, the staffing situation was called a “crisis” by Lasata officials and last year the Lasata Care Center experienced higher-than-usual turnover due to what Dzwinel called “operational challenges” that ultimately led to the firing of the campus administrator.

On another front, Dzwinel told committee members that a new market study for adding a community-based residential facility, or CBRF, to the campus has been completed and that he would likely present it to the committee and the County Board next month.

County officials are looking at adding a 24-bed CBRF, saying the campus loses a number of residents each year because Lasata lacks such a facility, especially in light of changing market demands.

A market study for a CBRF was completed in 2019 but supervisors earlier this year authorized spending $10,000 to update the study.

That study estimated a CBRF would generate about $2 million in revenue annually and realize a “profit” of about $700,000, assuming 90% average occupancy and 100% private-pay patients paying about $6,400 a month.

The Lasata campus includes the Lasata Care Center, a 136-bed skilled nursing facility; Lasata Crossings, a 60-unit assisted living facility; and Lasata Heights, a 60-unit building for independent seniors.

The Lasata Senior Campus and its three components are considered an enterprise fund meant to support itself without tax levy support and perhaps even turn a profit to pay for maintenance and make improvements.

Since more than half of the Care Center’s residents rely on Medicaid, Lasata’s business model calls for drawing more Medicare and private-pay residents at Lasata Heights and Crossings, and presumably the CBRF, to cover the Care Center losses.

The Care Center ended 2022 with $80,000 to $90,000 in “profit” instead of a deficit, which county officials had expected to be about half a million dollars, thanks to some accounting maneuvers, including depreciation of equipment and retirement system adjustments.

It was also due, however, to an increase in the federal reimbursement rate for Medicaid patients that went into effect last fall.

Medicaid cost coverage increased from 77% for fiscal year 2022 to 91% for fiscal year 2023, which made the increase retroactive to last July when the fiscal year began. The fiscal year ends this coming July.

Kuemmerlein said the county recently received a payment of $952,000. She estimated the county will receive a total of $1.8 million for fiscal 2023, compared to $1.3 million for fiscal 2022.

The rate will be adjusted again in November after an audit but, she told committee members,  “we’re hopeful it’s not going to change very much.”

Medicaid is a federally funded program administered by the state.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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