Meeting held in Belview to address Parkview Home rumors

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

On October 28th, a group of around 60 community members including staff of Parkview Senior Living’s facility came together for a meeting held by the Belview City Council at the Odeon Hall to discuss rumors circulating around town that the care facility would be closing or sold. At the meeting, speakers included Steve Fritzke, Parkview Senior Living’s Administrator. Fritzke says the purpose of the meeting was to dispel the rumors by way of explaining the challenges that the facility faces. “And to explain the options being explored so that Parkview Senior Living can remain an asset well into the future,” says Fritzke. “That’s really the heart and soul of why we met.”

Fritzke emphasized that the facility is not closing. “There’s a lot of rumors out there that the facility is closing or going to be sold and so on. Like any nursing home around, we’ve struggled. We’re not closing. The biggest challenge for us and every other nursing home is staffing. That’s the bottom line,” he says.

Belview City Clerk Lori Ryer says that in addition to staffing challenges, Belview’s facility is unique in that the facility is still recovering from a previous event. “So many of the nursing homes are dealing with staff shortages and COVID but Belview had an extra little caveat to add to it. We had the tornado in 2011 where we were closed for seven months so just trying to climb back out of that, then covid hits, now the staffing shortages,” she says.

John Lipf, of the state trade association Leading Age, was also at the meeting and handed out an informational pamphlet to those attending. The pamphlet entitled, “Minnesota’s Workforce Shortage and its Impact on Senior Care” provided statistics on Minnesota’s current, unprecedented staffing shortages in care facilities, referring to the shortages as “record-level” and “alarming”. Statistics noted that there are currently 23,000 positions throughout care facilities representing over 20% of Minnesota’s caregiving workforce that are currently open. The pamphlet also says, “The gap in unfilled positions is widening at a rapid rate. In August we experienced 1.5 times more resignations than hires, a rate that is unsustainable.” The pamphlet also stated, “70% of nursing homes are limiting admissions, up nearly 30% since July 2021. The primary reason cited was insufficient staff to meet resident needs. The pamphlet also noted that none of the shortages are attributed more or less to any single area of the state, but are evenly statewide. 

“That’s the same scenario in Montevideo, in Redwood Falls, in St. Paul. We’re in the same situation across the state and across the country. I’ve been in health care as an administrator for 40 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it as far as staffing,” says Fritzke. “We also said we can’t fix the problem alone. We need government partners to initiate funds and programs, and reimbursement programs. We had Senator Gary Dahms there and he is very understanding and knowledgeable of what they’re working on in St. Paul. They’re aware of the reimbursement issue, and from my understanding, they’re working on it.”

Senator Dahms said, “Making sure our nursing homes are properly staffed and can remain open is a critical issue not only in Belview but across our entire state. I’ve been listening to the challenges and needs of our local nursing facilities to better understand how we can address this growing problem. Parkview is an essential part of Belview as evident by the strong support for our caregivers, residents, and staff by the community. I pledge to work on addressing this crisis with my Senate colleagues.”

Fritzke noted that some of the workforce challenges are attributed to the COVID situation in ways that people outside of the healthcare industry may not have considered. “The other thing for people to know is how COVID really impacted us like everyone else in the world. It increased the challenges in the workforce. It just affected everything and what we had to do the testing - don’t get me wrong, I get that we had to do that, but it put more on the staff and they got burned out and they quit and they said well I can go work somewhere else. COVID has had a major impact on the industry,” he says. 

The community members who attended the meeting, Fritzke says, were there with a mindset of finding out how they could help. “We were very pleased with the turnout. The thoughts were, what can we do as a community? I liked the attitude of the community people they were asking what they could do, how they could help. They were very appreciative and there was no attacking. They know they’ve got a great asset there with the nursing home and community living and they just want to know what they can do to keep it going. It was a very positive meeting,” Fritzke says. City Clerk Ryer added, “It was a good meeting. We had a wonderful turnout and we’ll just keep trying to be transparent and get information out as we find things out.”

When asked what the community could do to help in this situation, Fritzke says, “What can we do? I think the biggest thing that the community and anyone involved can do is keep talking. If there’s someone out there who maybe would want to be a nursing assistant or want to work in dietary - if they can keep the word out there that we are looking for help in certain areas, that’s really the key to survival. Getting the word out there, getting adequate staff to care for the residents in the facility.”