$9.5 million nursing facility breaking ground on Oct. 30Published 8:34am Wednesday, October 14, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30, for Atrium Centers’ skilled nursing facility.
A $9.5 million facility where Dowagiac Nursing Home operated before closing in the summer of 2007 will create more than 100 jobs and a $4 million annual payroll.
The project will consist of 61,000 square feet of new construction and renovated space.
The project on 13 acres at 610 Uneta St. is expected to be completed in June 2010.
“We are excited about coming to the community, and we look forward to helping Dowagiac and Cass County meet the ever-increasing demand for senior living services,” said Jason Reese, chief operating officer of Columbus, Ohio, based Atrium Centers, LLC, the company that will own and operate the Dowagiac facility.
“Opening a facility like this in Dowagiac is more important now than ever,” Reese said. “The number of people in Michigan over age 65 is growing at nearly twice the rate of the younger population, and the 85-plus age group is growing at nearly four times the rate of those under 65.”
The new facility will feature a “lodge design,” complete with stone finishes and timbers incorporated throughout the exterior.
The facility will also include elegantly appointed and spacious common areas, a main restaurant-style dining room area, along with private dining for special occasions, activity and recreational rooms, a beauty and barber shop, lounges, a therapy gym that will include fitness programs and wellness services, a new canopied entrance drive facing E. Prairie Ronde Street and a large landscaped interior courtyard.
Once construction is complete, the new facility will provide individualized care and services to approximately 108 residents needing assistance with rehabilitation post-hospital recovery and traditional skilled nursing services.
More than 100 “team members” will be employed to manage the community and to provide daily services, activities, programs and meals to residents.
In addition to skilled nursing care, the new facility will provide short-term rehabilitation services for patients who need skilled nursing care on a more temporary basis.
Patients, typically on Medicare, are admitted to the rehabilitation unit directly from traditional hospitals.
These patients are treated for a variety of reasons, including neurological, orthopedic, cardiac, respiratory and general disabilities associated with recent surgery or illness.
“In other Atrium facilities,” Reese said, “nearly 50 percent of all patients return to their prior residences following a Medicare stay. That’s a great accomplishment which we are very proud of.”
“This project will be a significant boost to the area,” Reese said. “In addition to the sizable capital investment, it will produce an annual payroll of approximately $4 million.”
Atrium Centers, LLC, based in Columbus, employs more than 4,000 team members throughout 43 nursing centers in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Kentucky.
Regional Sales and Marketing Director Gary Vandenberg, who lives between Cleveland and Akron, visited Dowagiac Tuesday afternoon and said in an interview at the Daily News, “We’re excited to be bringing jobs. We have an office in Norton Shores and two centers we work with in South Haven. We also have a facility over in Centreville called Fairview,” located across from the St. Joseph County Fairgrounds.
“We also have a facility in Plainwell on the north side of Kalamazoo. We’re a ‘local flavor’ type of facility and company. We like, obviously, to employ local folks and become part of the community. I’m going to try to get to the Rotary meeting on Thursday to introduce myself” and to the hospital.
While it’s “unusual” to be “starting from scratch” with a vacant facility, Vandenberg said, “To be honest, I think it’s easier to start fresh and regrow it.”
“Refilling it is highly regulated by state and federal laws as to how many staff members are hired. You don’t open in one day with 100 residents. There’s a process of licensing by the state and certification by Medicare and Medicaid, then it grows incrementally. We had one family which contacted us about a month ago saying they wanted to come back. I’m not sure how many more of those there are. There are limited nursing home options in Cass County, though I hear there’s another nice facility in the area.”
When Vandenberg got involved in long-term care 30 years ago, “People came in for several years at a time. Now, Medicare covers the first 20 days 100-percent, then there’s a co-pay. What ends up happening is that they’re able to go home or to assisted living, so the long-term care industry has changed a lot.
“We’re working on resident-centered care, trying to bring residents more options. This is a great opportunity, starting from scratch, to set great customer service expectations from the beginning. They’re more alert and demanding of amenities – TV, telephone, Internet access, cable television.
“I look forward to learning more about the town. Any kind of nursing facility is not the building, but the people. It’s interesting here because it’s a little connected to both. I think people are optimistic that something better is coming. Whatever was here was serving the needs of the town, but I think they want to see it jazzed up and modernized,” Vandenberg commented.
Vandenberg, who racks up about 1,000 travel miles a week, estimates he has worked with 400 nursing facilities during his 30-year career.
“Most of them are in towns like Dowagiac,” he said. “They take great pride in their community and they want to see positive changes.”
Atrium communities offer a full range of personalized senior living services, from respite care and short-term rehabilitation, to skilled nursing and specialized services and care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss.
Atrium says its senior living services are delivered by staff members dedicated to meet the needs of each resident in a caring and emotionally supportive atmosphere.