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Bed shortages hampering facilities

By KALEY CONNER

kconner@dailynews.net

Ellis County residents needing skilled nursing services might have a difficult time finding an available room in their hometowns this winter.

Administrators said volume has been unusually high at the county's three nursing homes. While the facilities are trying to accommodate as many families as possible, some residents temporarily have been housed outside county lines.

"There's a shortage of beds available in Hays right now," said Ben Anderson, administrator of Good Samaritan Society's Ellsworth facility.

"We've had, on occasions, someone come out to Ellsworth wanting to eventually relocate back to their home community when a bed becomes available."

Approximately an hour's drive from Hays, the Ellsworth facility works with other Good Samaritan skilled nursing homes in Hays and Ellis to help residents access care as close to home as possible, Anderson said.

The Hays Good Samaritan facility has 70 beds, including a 16-bed unit providing specialized care for Alzheimer's patients. As of Tuesday, the facility was full with a waiting list, said home administrator Susan Brown-Jones.

The situation has attracted attention from facilities in other counties.

"We had somebody from a facility in Salina who was making a sweep through who had heard that Ellis County was short on beds," Brown-Jones said. "They were kind of setting up a service so they would offer placements.

"It really is a problem."

According to a spokesperson for Good Samaritan Society, the Ellis facility also has been running at full volume.

Brown-Jones said the demand for services has been higher than usual during the past year.

"I'm not sure what has shifted, but within the last year, there's been a huge demand," she said. "Sometimes it has happened that some of our Ellis County people coming out of the hospital can't find a bed, so they end up outside of Ellis County, which seems somehow not right."

Via Christi Villages, a recently constructed 96-bed facility in Hays, also has seen a high demand for services, CEO David Karlin said.

The facility, offering more private rooms and enhanced amenities, opened in April following the consolidation of St. John's skilled nursing facilities in Hays and Victoria. The two previous facilities were licensed for a maximum capacity of 130 beds.

Karlin said demand typically ebbs and flows at different times of the year.

"The winter months can increase the demand," he said. "Now is that time that traditionally there's more inquiries and more of a need in long-term care."

Karlin acknowledged there have been times the facility was full but said the overall need does not seem to outweigh the availability.

"As far as individuals needing skilled services, if they are needing them, we are able to provide the care," he said. "We've had space available."

Only time will tell if the long-term need for skilled nursing care will increase in Ellis County. On one hand, it is possible seniors could be able to stay home longer as more home-based services become available, reducing the need for skilled care, Karlin said.

It's also possible the demand could skyrocket as baby boomers age and begin needing services.

"Could there be a day when the need outweighs the capacity?" Karlin said. "That possibility exists."

Brown-Jones agrees.

"My opinion, and I think most people would tell you, there's a need for more beds in Ellis County," she said.