PIERRE – A bill that would allow nursing homes to consolidate with other health care providers when they are replacing an existing facility was approved Tuesday morning by the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee.
Sen. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford, said aging nursing home facilities in rural areas with declining populations needed the flexibility to merge their services if they wanted to stay open. SB139 allows nursing homes that are replacing their facilities to “improve operations or increase services” and “consolidate, merge or join another health care or long-term service provider.”
“We’ve got some facilities that are long in the tooth,” Steinhauer said, noting that the newest facilities are 30 years old. “They are going to have difficulty surviving.”
Steinhauer said there are 16 South Dakota communities that have nursing homes but no assisted living facilities nearby. Likewise there are 16 South Dakota communities that have assisted living facilities with no nursing home nearby.
“We don’t have aging in place in 38 of our communities,” Steinhauer said.
SB139 was opposed by Lynne Valenti of the S.D. Department of Health who said that provisions for improving and increasing services are already included in laws governing the replacement of nursing homes.
“This bill is unnecessary,” said Valenti, noting that a new facility would, by its very nature, improve operations and increase services.
Steinhauer countered that passage of the bill would send a message to the people who run nursing homes.
“We need to make sure in the law that a merger is possible,” Steinhauer said.
An amendment that struck the “improve operations and increase services” portion of the bill was approved by the committee. It went on to approve the amended bill on a 6-0 vote. It now goes to the full Senate.