A state-mandated consolidation of services could result in a loss of nursing home beds for the regional treatment centers in Brainerd or Walker.
The proposed plans, from the Department of Human Services, would be to move beds from Brainerd Regional Human Services Center to Ah-Gwah-Ching Center, or vice versa. There are a total of 183 beds currently, 28 in Brainerd and 155 in Walker.
Officials from the Department of Human Services Tuesday were in Brainerd to get public feedback about the two scenarios.
"We're trying to get the basic facts of consolidation out to the stakeholders," said Mike Tessneer, acting assistant commissioner with the Department of Human Services. "Though it's a legislative mandate, no decisions have been made. Our intent is to start public discussion because it is such an important issue."
Moving the beds from Walker to Brainerd would save more than $2 million per year in overhead, but the cost of renovation at the human services center for such a move is estimated to be about $15 million.
Moving the beds from Brainerd to Walker would increase overhead about $56,000 per year. However, the costs of renovation at Ah-Gwah-Ching would be just $2.7 million. A move from the Ah-Gwah-Ching Center or from Brainerd Regional Human Services Center could affect close to 200 employees.
Dr. Nick Bernier, St. Joseph Medical Center's director of medical affairs, said he would like to see the Department of Human Services consider a third option -- not doing anything.
"Our concern is that whatever you do as far as consolidation that you continue to meet the needs of the population," said Bernier.
Warren Welton, whose sister moved from Ah-Gwah-Ching to Brainerd, said his sister wants to stay in Brainerd.
"I don't know why you'd give this place up," said Welton. "It's great."
Linda Koob, whose mother is at the Brainerd center, said Brainerd's central location in the state is important for family members of patients.
"It's so sad people have to go so far," said Koob. "And I get the feeling we're trying to convince you when you've already made your mind up that your going to Ah-Gwah-Ching."
Tessneer reiterated no decision had yet been made. A report from meetings in Brainerd, Walker and other cities with regional treatment centers is due to the Legislature by Jan. 15.
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