Oak Hill budget OK; department split

The Monroe County Board finalized Fiscal Year 2023 preparations Monday morning as it approved the budget for the Oak Hill senior living and rehabilitation center.

The annual budget for the county-owned facility is approved separately from the overall budget for other county departments, which was passed at the board’s Dec. 5 meeting. 

Oak Hill Administrator Shari Kruep said the goal for the year is to “concentrate on revenue.”

To accomplish that goal, Kruep reported a Medicare specialist at Oak Hill will oversee paperwork and other requirements to ensure the facility receives maximum reimbursement.

Kruep also noted the beds at Oak Hill’s Whispering Pines wing and the Evergreen Pointe rehabilitation center are Medicare Part A certified, meaning rooms in those areas may be used when available to accommodate any overflow if other residential sections are full.

Another area in which Oak Hill will try to reduce expenses is staffing. Kruep said the director of nursing will personally supervise staffing levels to maintain appropriate levels and lessen reliance on outside help from staffing agencies, which accounted for $1.5 million in expenses in the past year.

Kruep said certified nursing assistant positions are the main concern since Oak Hill has been able to retain appropriate levels of RN and LPN staff.

Kruep said “morale is good” at Oak Hill despite the continued presence of COVID-19 and an uptick of type A influenza in recent weeks. She added the symptoms are mild with the COVID cases and the flu is “worse,” as two residents are currently hospitalized as a result of the virus.

Although she said the facility is in “outbreak mode” to handle seasonal illnesses – which includes COVID testing and isolation measures – Oak Hill will continue to hold activities for residents.

“People have to live,” Kruep said, referring to the more restrictive COVID-19 policies in place during the past three years.

COVID-19 is also affecting Monroe County EMS, Monroe County Ambulance Director Carla Heise said. 

With a couple of EMS crew members out with COVID and holiday vacations, Heise reported one ambulance was not staffed last week, requiring Columbia EMS to respond to a few events outside of its normal coverage area due to a high call volume.

Although the department has been understaffed recently, Heise said the full- and part-time staff vacancies are being filled and “January looks a lot better” in terms of keeping the department ready for action.

Heise added the EMS department is “downhill on the staffing issues” moving into the new year.

In other business, commissioners restructured the county mapping and platting and geographic information system department.

Former department director Laura Henry submitted a letter of resignation earlier this month. 

Instead of appointing a new director, the county will split department duties between the Monroe County Clerk and 9-1-1 offices.

Commissioner Dennis Knobloch said mapping and platting employee Raina Lewis will assume duties such as annexation, property splits and subdivision registration through the clerk’s office.

GIS services will be managed by current Monroe County Assistant 9-1-1 Director Rachele Starr under supervision of the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency.

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Scott Woodsmall

HTC web