MACOMB — New administrator Tim Bledsoe told the McDonough County Board's building and grounds committee Tuesday that The Elms residential and rehabilitation facility is still struggling to hire enough certified nursing assistants.
"We're doing more in recruiting," Bledsoe said. "We have some of the aides now taking CNA courses....I'm talking to staff members about asking some of their friends to consider working here."
Bledsoe said his goal is to replace temporary workers with new staff members over the next two months. "Money that's spent with employment agencies would be better spent on our permanent staff," he said.
The administrator described the current Elms staff as "fantastic." He said staff turnaround is only five percent in an industry where the standard is 70 percent and many facilities pursue a goal of 40 percent.
"Our building is blessed with longevity," Bledsoe said. "So many of our people have stayed....We're retaining the older staff so the challenge is getting the younger ones to stay."
Bledsoe said National Nursing Home Week events are going well. "I think this is helping people to enjoy their jobs," he said. "Most of our people are satisfied." He said The Elms has gone up in statewide ratings, earning four stars in a five-star system.
The administrator reported that 78 people currently live in the facility. He said 11 residents have their care paid for through Medicare and 21 have their care paid for privately. Bledsoe said the remaining residents are covered by Medicaid and that the state currently owes The Elms $365,366 in Medicaid reimbursements.
Bledsoe said stays at The Elms for therapy are relatively short. He said three more nurses have been hired.
In other business, County Clerk Gretchen DeJaynes said her office would help fund construction of a room for nursing mothers, to be located on the third floor of the McDonough County Courthouse. Committee member Terra Litchfield said she feels any room in the historic courthouse should match the look of the building. "It should be esthetically pleasing," DeJaynes added.
County Board Chairman George Dixon asked committee members to share their thoughts about the room with Sheriff Nick Petitgout. The sheriff by law oversees physical aspects of the courthouse.
The committee voted to recommend that the "Blue and Red Lives Matter" group be allowed to set up an area on the south side of the courthouse Saturday. The group has planned a 7.5 mile march from the Colchester Fire Department to the courthouse in support of the Illinois State Police and troopers recently killed in traffic accidents. The city of Macomb is also supporting the effort with parking and police supervision.
County Maintenance Director Allen Sheffler reported that work release prisoners from the county jail would be stripping, re-waxing, and sealing the courthouse floors. He said a new sump pump has been installed for the building and that a storage shed has been re-roofed.
Sheffler said a window has been installed in the front portion of the city/county animal shelter on Tower Road.
Dixon told the committee that Ed Lavin has resigned from the board due to family health issues. He said that he would formally announce the vacancy and would try to appoint a replacement for Lavin by the end of June.

Reach Patrick Stout by email at pstout@mcdonoughvoice.com