27B candidates hold forum

Published 10:10 am Friday, October 7, 2016

The two candidates for District 27B representative discussed senior care issues and possible solutions Thursday.

The incumbent, Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin; and Dennis Schminke, R-Austin; discussed senior care in front of about two dozen senior citizens and health care professionals at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea.

The forum also included the candidates for District 27A representative, incumbent Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea; and her challenger, Gary Schindler, D-Albert Lea.

Addressing senior care

Schminke suggested alternative licensing for prospective long-term care workers who have a lot of experience, but not the right licensure, to help address senior care staffing shortages.

Poppe said she was proud of legislative efforts to address long-term care staffing shortages, and spoke highly of a LeRoy-Ostrander Public School program, which helps students become a nursing assistant.

Poppe encouraged helping senior citizens on a fixed income, noting she wants to see them live independently until they are ready to enter a nursing home.

Schminke encouraged people to keep money in an IRA, 401K or other retirement plans, and suggested a department or commissioner develop an objective scoring method to rate long-term care policies.

Candidate for 27B Represenative, Dennis Schminke, discusses senior care Thursday during a candidate forum at Good Samaritan Society. — Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

Candidate for 27B Represenative, Dennis Schminke, discusses senior care Thursday during a candidate forum at Good Samaritan Society. — Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

The need to remodel nursing home facilities

Schminke and Poppe spoke of the need to keep long-term care facilities in good shape.

“If the state can help with that, I think that is important we do it,” Poppe said, noting some older long-term care facilities need to be updated.

“We can provide some funding for schools for renovations, we should be able to do that for nursing homes,” she said.

Schminke said though costs are different in more populated urban centers, Greater Minnesota infrastructure needs to keep up to date, or else it will fail.

Technology
and privacy

Schminke and Poppe spoke highly of telemedicine — the diagnosis and treatment of patients by telecommunication —  to assist seniors in living independently.

“Telemedicine would be undoubtedly one of the greatest things to ever come,” Schminke said.

Poppe described her experience with telemedicine as outstanding, noting telemedicine would help nursing homes, health care facilities, schools and rural facilities with staffing shortages.

For access to telemedicine, she suggested broadband service be extended to unserved areas, noting her belief that more than the $40 million in state broadband funding suggested by House Republicans is needed to expand broadband access.

“If these are priorities for us, we need to be able to fund it,” she said.

Schminke and Poppe also discussed reforms to the Elderly Waiver program and personal experience with long-term care facilities.

Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea Administrator Katie Davis said the forum was important to show the legislators are representatives for senior citizens.

“We need our legislators to be the voice for us in St. Paul, to hear our thoughts and our ideas,” she said. “We really need good representation in St. Paul.”

Poppe and Schminke said the forum was a good learning experience for policy and funding ideas.

“It was a good event to be able to hear from each other,” Poppe said. “We all pay attention that we can learn from each other and some good ideas can come up.”

“I probably learned more than imparting knowledge,” Schminke said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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