A scabies outbreak has shined a new light on Valley Hi, McHenry County’s nursing home, and whether the facility is adequately staffed for its residents.
If you listen to the point of view of employees there, the answer is a resounding no. At this point, it’s unfair to determine whether a staff shortage contributed to a highly contagious disease spreading. It’s a disease that has popped up in other facilities and will continue to do so.
But the outbreak is what drew attention to issues at Valley Hi and the fact that more than 70 employees have filed a petition complaining about insufficient staffing levels, which is puzzling for a few reasons.
It’s been well-documented that Valley Hi is sitting on a $35 million to $40 million surplus, which appropriately caused some McHenry County Board members to raise concern over why it has at least three years of operating expenses sitting in an account.
That concern led the board to at least temporarily suspend Valley Hi’s $3 million tax levy, and they were right to do it. It’s certainly a major improvement over past years when Valley Hi consistently ran at a deficit.
Following a series of reforms, the fiscal health of the facility no longer is in question. Just last spring, the Valley Hi Operating Board was talking about spending some of the reserve cash on new beds, finishing the basement and stocking the ponds for its 120-plus residents.
That’s why it’s puzzling to hear of staffing complaints from employees. The spending of taxpayer money always should be an issue and scrutinized. But when an entity already has tens of millions of taxpayer money that taxpayers aren’t getting back, those same taxpayers shouldn’t be hearing a word about staffing shortages.
Since state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, has been complaining about these issues and Franks is running for McHenry County Board chairman against McHenry County Board member Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake, we can expect this discussion to carry some political undertones.
Regardless of motivation – perceived or otherwise – the health of the residents of Valley Hi should take the first priority along with fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.