New Richland Care Center rebuilds

Published 2:36 pm Saturday, October 9, 2010

NEW RICHLAND — Just two weeks after the New Richland Care Center’s residents were evacuated due to flooding, officials at the center are forging ahead in the recovery process with hopes of welcoming its former residents and employees back in the next six to eight weeks.

“Yes, we’ve had had quite a bit of damage, but will be reopening,” said New Richland Care Center Administrator Mikenzi Hebel. “A lot of families are begging us to reopen as soon as possible.”

Forty-four residents of the care center were evacuated on Sept. 22 due to heavy rainfalls that caused water to flood the building.

Email newsletter signup

She said that upon immediate evacuation, residents were temporarily placed in five different area facilities, including the Albert Lea Medical Center, Lakeshore Inn Nursing Home in Waseca and the Waseca Medical Center.

During the temporary placement, Hebel said staffers from the New Richland Care Center were traveling to these facilities, trying to keep their former residents on specific care plans and offering therapy services.

On Oct. 1, Hebel was ordered by the Minnesota Department of Health to permanently discharge the center’s residents to other facilities. Medicaid was also involved in the recommendation.

She said this decision was deemed the best scenario for the residents.

By getting them permanently placed in other facilities, she said, the residents could utilize proper care plans, therapy options and get the special cares each one of them needs.

“We can’t continue to staff that many facilities,” she added.

She said residents were permanently placed in area facilities, including centers in Owatonna, Albert Lea, Mapleton, Faribault and Waseca. She hopes all of their previous residents will choose to come back once the facility is reopened.

The decision to temporarily close the New Richland Care Facility resulted in an estimated 100 staff members to be temporarily without jobs. Hebel said these employees were full time, part-time and casual — those who come in on an as-needed basis.

“They had the option to use paid time off or go on unemployment. It was completely up to them,” Hebel said. “Their jobs are waiting for them when we reopen. I want to get my employees back to work.”

She said a few managers remained on staff as of last week, to make sure all of the permanent placements were completed.

Evacuation and damages

Hebel said the decision to evacuate the residents came as flood waters in New Richland began to rise near the facility on Sept. 22. They evacuated immediately upon the recommendation of Waseca County sheriff’s officials.

“We started evacuating before the water came in, around 12:30 p.m.,” she said.

The evacuation took about two and a half hours and residents were transported by ambulances and busses to area facilities.

During that time, a massive sandbagging operation was set in motion, with over 350 volunteers, including students, residents and emergency personnel from New Richland and surrounding communities. “The community pulled together really quickly,” she said. “We were able to minimize damages.”

She said all residents were evacuated before the water entered the building. Despite the sandbagging efforts, water started seeping into the building through the walls and doors towards the evening hours.

Hebel said that while the building only received about four inches of water up on the walls, it wicked up about six inches in the sheet rock.

Damages according to Hebel are estimated around $250,000 to $300,000.

“One of our biggest costs is ripping out sheet rock and the initial cleanup,” Hebel said.

Construction crews have begun cleaning out wet sheet rock and moldy areas, and pulling out carpet. Disinfecting must be completed throughout the entire facility, and Hebel said they will need to repaint, put in new carpet and re-sheet rock walls.

She said the individual air conditioning and heating units in each residential room must also be replaced, which will cost about $30,000. “That was a big part of the expenses,” she said.

According to Hebel, most of the medical equipment was pulled from the floor and kept dry, so those damages were minimal.

“A couple thousand dollars of immunizations in a refrigerator are gone, and the lawnmower in the garage area flooded, so we don’t know if that will work,” she added.

Hebel said they are shooting for a tentative reopen date in eight weeks, however, that may get pushed back due to construction schedules.

She added she’s thankful for the community’s help and staff “elbow grease” during cleanup and recovery.

“Honestly, the thing I’m most proud of is how well our staff and community pulled together,” Hebel added. “It’s been overwhelming how much support we’ve received. We have a good place here and we’re working our butts off to get going again. We’re welcoming everyone back with open arms as soon as possible.”