‘They cry everyday:’ Decision to close Ravenna nursing home devestating to residents, community – Grand Island Independent

‘They cry everyday:’ Decision to close Ravenna nursing home devestating to residents, community

Rylie Mills

Ravenna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rylie Mills is trying to stay optimistic about Good Samaritan Society – Ravenna closing. Mills noted that a number of businesses in town have closed during the years, but other companies have taken their place.

Ashley Bebensee, Kearney Hub

RAVENNA — Joseph Matejka had just gotten accustomed to living at Good Samaritan Society – Ravenna. Now he has to move.

Matejka, 87, lived at Seneca Sunrise – Assisted and Independent Living for a year before moving into Good Samaritan Society six months ago. “It is always such a transition for these elderly people. He just got used to that,” said Fred Matejka, Joseph’s son, about his father’s move from assisted living to a nursing home.

When Joseph recently was admitted to the hospital, he told Fred he wanted to go back to the nursing home. Joseph was placed on hospice, and he will be spending his last days somewhere new when Good Samaritan Society – Ravenna closes Dec. 31.

Good Samaritan Society announced earlier this week that their locations in Ravenna, Arapahoe and Valentine will be closing. Good Samaritan Society Vice President of Operations Nate Schema said the closures were due to a number of factors, including ongoing staffing challenges, a decline in the number of residents and increased operating costs.

“The pandemic has put unprecedented stress on the senior care industry, which has forced us to make difficult decisions about how and where we can provide services,” Schema said.

The news has been devastating for the employees and residents of the facility, said Peg Dethlefs, a nurse’s aide at the nursing home and mayor of Ravenna.

“There are residents that have worked there. Now they reside there. They cry everyday. It’s very emotional,” Dethlefs said. “They want to go where the staff is going to go work. There have been a lot of bonds that have been made. They are like family.”

There are currently 35 residents and 43 employees in Ravenna. The maximum occupancy is 61 residents. Occupancy has slowly declined during the last decade and has remained below 65% for the past several years, said Schema.

Good Samaritan Society is providing resources to help residents and families find new homes and care, including at nearby Good Samaritan Society locations in Nebraska. They are also helping staff members pursue employment opportunities at other locations, said Schema.

Many of the employees have worked at the nursing home for many years.

Svanda Pharmacy

Geoff Wright and Stacy Baillie are pharmacists and own Svanda Pharmacy in Ravenna. The pair still are absorbing the news that the town’s nursing home is closing, and they are staying positive.

Bev Macek began working at Good Sam on Dec. 31, 1980, and she retired in January. Macek worked for a few years in Kearney before working in Ravenna. For her, the facility became like a second home.

“They are our family. The nursing home is part of Ravenna’s community, and we are an aging community. In other words, a loved one’s parent has to be in the nursing home whether it’s Kearney, Grand Island or Hastings, and if that other aging parent has to drive, there is no way they can drive alone. It’s taken their independence. We are a dang good nursing home. I just feel bad,” Macek said.

The Matejkas are concerned about Joseph moving outside of Ravenna, and they worry about not being able to see him everyday.

“He gets excellent care in Ravenna. We were happy. I think (Administrator) Jeff (Achtenberg) has done an awesome job in Ravenna. Now we will have to travel 45 minutes to an hour to go see him. You almost can’t do that everyday,” Fred said.

As a major employer in the small town closes its doors, community members are concerned about the effect it will have on other businesses.

“It impacts us and the community as a whole. There are employees who have worked there their entire life,” said Geoff Wright, co-owner of Svanda Pharmacy in Ravenna.

“We feel awful for the residents who will move to places probably a big distance from family members,” added Stacy Baillie, co-owner of Svanda Pharmacy.

The pair still are absorbing the news, and they haven’t had a chance to assess how it will affect their business. They do expect their volume of prescriptions to go down once the nursing home closes, but they are staying positive and aren’t planning on going anywhere.

Ravenna Good Sam Society

The Good Samaritan Society, that has been in Ravenna for several decades, is closing its doors Dec. 31.

Ravenna has lost a number of businesses in the past 10 years, including the Leprino factory, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Ravenna Super Foods. However, they have had new enterprises open such as Darling Ingredients, MNO Hometown Market – Ravenna and Heartland Health Center Ravenna Medical.

“There are many jobs involved, and other businesses rely on their business,” said Ravenna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rylie Mills. “It’s not good. I always try to remain positive, but I don’t know what will happen.”

The community is looking into different options to keep a nursing home in Ravenna, but it’s not an easy feat with the closure date rapidly approaching.

Dethlefs said, “We are looking into options, but the problem is 60 days is not much time. If we would have know about it six months ago, it would have been a different story.

“I have had several people say we need to try and save it. I’m not saying no, but there is a lot of footwork to be done to get something going, and we are looking at those avenues,” she said.

Fred Matejka is a Ravenna City Council member, and he is concerned that even if the city could help, Good Samaritan Society would not reverse the decision.

The Matejka family are trying to get a place for Joseph at Good Samaritan Society – St. John’s in Kearney. They considered the Central Nebraska Veterans Home, but there is a long waiting list, Fred said.

“I think you almost have to move him as soon as we can find an opening. If we can wait two months and move him then, that would be great. As soon as you can get him in somewhere, you better take that bed,” he added.

Macek is concerned about the effect it will have on the residents at the nursing home.

“Change is hard for the elderly. We can cope with change, the youngsters. The elders like continuity. It will be very, very hard on them,” she said.

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