By Anna Jauhola
New administration, internal changes
Earlier this year, when Kittson Healthcare hired Everett Butler as interim CEO, he helped the board interview CEO candidates. During the annual Hospital Association meeting, Butler announced the board decided on Andrea Swenson, of Lancaster, who was the clinic director from 2018 to 2023.
She is temporarily named chief operating officer while she trains under Butler and completes her master’s degree in healthcare administration. Once Butler’s term is up June 1, 2023, that COO title disappears and is replaced by CEO. To assist in this entire transition, former Nursing Home Administrator and CEO Cindy Urbaniak came out of retirement to help Swenson with her required hours to obtain her nursing home administrator’s license, Butler said. To do this, Urbaniak caught up on her own continuing education hours to reinstate her license.
Butler also reported at the meeting Dr. Vanessa Cook, who was hired at the beginning of 2022, recently signed another three-year contract with Kittson Healthcare. Like Dr. James Surdy renting a house from the hospital, Cook will now rent the on-call house next door. This change means Kittson Healthcare will remodel two rooms in the west wing upstairs as sleeping quarters for the locum tenens doctors who fill the gaps between Cook’s and Surdy’s rotations.
With the departure of former CEO Gabe Mooney, Kittson Healthcare lost its nursing home administrator. So Jodee Sugden, RN, has received emergency certification through the state of Minnesota to be the nursing home administrator through June. That is a one-time, six-month certification, so Swenson is also certified temporarily to take that position after June. She is on schedule to receive her permanent nursing home administrator license.
“You have an excellent staff here,” Butler said. “You have a lot of great people that work here, a lot of commitment and a lot of time and longevity by various members. I expressed to the board all the time about how much I appreciate all the employees that work in this organization. You as a community need to be thankful that you have dedicated staff members.”
Another change is who heads up the Hospital Foundation. For 25 years, Patti Swanson has been president. This year she stepped down and Deb Cederholm is now in that position. Although Swanson felt the need for change, she remains as an active member on the board.
Changes in the organization
In August 2022, Kittson Healthcare moved its nursing home residents all onto one level, leaving the upper level nursing home vacant. Butler said this transition has gone smoothly with no complaints from residents or their families, and everything is running efficiently. The big concerns instead are the number of residents, and those who are hired to care for them. While Kittson Healthcare locally employs 11 CNAs and five nurses, they have a need to fill gaps, which requires them to employ two travel nurses and four travel CNAs. This is happening all over, Butler said, and unfortunately it’s expensive.
“Nursing homes are heavily regulated for how many people you have on every shift for the number of residents you have in your facility,” Butler said. “You have to meet those obligations and they don’t have people applying for jobs internally or locally, so you have to go to travel agencies and pay the price.”
With the vacant upper level comes the big decision to reorganize department offices. Butler said the plan is to move physical therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, behavioral health, ultrasounds, the dietician and social services to the east wing and former dining room upstairs.
To do this, the board has hired Pope Designers of Minneapolis to create a design for the upper level. This cost is $12,000. If the state of Minnesota approves this plan without major renovation costs involved, that will begin as soon as possible.
However, if there needs to be any major construction or new systems installed, it’ll be an endeavor for later down the road.
If the move upstairs takes place, then the vacated basement space will become conference rooms, Foundation office space and storage.
Kittson Pharmacy has been purchased by a private individual. In 2019, Kittson Healthcare bought out Harold Anderson’s pharmacy business and moved it to a remodeled space within the facility. During that time, the pharmacy has mostly been a break-even business, with some losses.
Butler said negotiations for the sale included Kittson Healthcare keeping all money accumulated through the 340B program. This program allows certain hospitals like critical access hospitals to purchase prescription drugs at lower costs, passing those savings onto the facility to support its overall success. Kittson Healthcare has a similar agreement with Thrifty White Pharmacy in Karlstad. For every prescription written by practitioners from Kittson Healthcare, the facility retains the 340B funds.
“That’s substantial – hundreds of thousands of dollars to be made in the 340B program. That’s a contract we have with the federal government as a facility to run the 340B program,” Butler said.
The new pharmacy owner retained the current employees and will operate it as a retail pharmacy. Butler said it will all be final this week and will have more information regarding the sale and operation.
By Anna Jauhola