Major Chicago Health System Shutters SNF, Pushes Home Health

It’s no secret that the number of skilled nursing beds is declining across the nation. A situation currently playing out in Chicago illustrates some of the reasons for this trend, including a push for more care to be delivered in people’s homes.

Northwestern Medicine, a major Windy City integrated health care system, is shutting down a skilled nursing facility (SNF) at the same time that it is joining a new initiative to expand home-based primary care. Crain’s Chicago Business reported the story Thursday, with the headline: “Out with nursing homes, in with home health care.”

Consumer preferences for home care or private-pay senior housing—such as assisted living—have eroded occupancy at traditional nursing homes like the Northwestern-owned Westmoreland Nursing Center, the article stated. Occupancy at the 84-bed Westmoreland decreased nearly 50% since 2012, reaching an annual rate of 61% as of 2012, according to documents Northwestern filed with the state of Illinois in July, when it applied to shutter the facility.

Westmoreland is affiliated with Northwestern-owned Lake Forest Hospital in the affluent northern Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. A $378 million health care center is in the works to replace the current hospital, and this new construction will not include a long-term care facility; this is due to the “new health care model” in the United States, Northwestern spokesman Chris King told Crain’s.

Northwestern is among several academic medical centers that sees home-based services as playing a larger role in U.S. health care. It is one of eight “Centers of Excellence” launching a new home health training program. The initiative aims to increase the number of clinicians focused on home-based primary care, with a target of growing this workforce by 5,000 clinicians within five years.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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