LACONIA — One of the top priorities for the Belknap County Nursing Home this year is hiring a receptionist for the home, which has not had a receptionist for the last seven years.
Interim nursing home Administrator Bob Hemenway told members of the County Convention's Nursing Home Subcommittee Friday morning that he was surprised to discover that the receptionist position had been funded in the last two budgets but that none had ever been hired.
The $46,000 position is not a part of this year's budget, which was originally proposed by the commissioners, but Hemenway said that it is crucial to the operation of the home.
"The people working in the front office have other responsibilities which are important. What a mistake that was, not to fill it," said Hemenway, who later noted that the lack of a receptionist contributes to lower morale in that office.
Rep. Don Flanders (R-Laconia), chairman of the subcommittee, said that he has many times walked through the front door into the nursing home and found that no one was there to greet visitors.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said she has been with the county for seven years and that during that time the nursing home has never had a receptionist. She said that although the position was funded the last two years, the previous administrator did not believe the nursing home needed a receptionist and had not filled the position.
"It's a real hardship not to have a receptionist," said Shackett, who said that Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) has expressed support for hiring one and is looking to fund the position by finding savings in other areas.
Another major priority is implementing an electronic medical record-keeping program. Hemenway told subcommittee members that the current record keeping system is inefficient and doesn't accurately capture all of the activity for which the county should be reimbursed.
The county currently uses PointClickCare software for the nursing home, but licensed nursing assistants do not have access to it, so they enter information on what they have done into another system at the end of the day.
Hemenway said that it will be 18 months to two years before the benefits of electronic record-keeping can be realized because reimbursement rates won't reflect the new information for about two years.
But he urged immediate action, saying "the longer you wait, the longer it will take for it to have an impact."
County commissioners have already approved encumbering $20,000 in funds from the 2015 budget in order to purchase 12 wall-mounted kiosks this year, which will allow the nursing home to begin to implement an electronic medical record-keeping program as soon as possible.
The change is designed to stem an estimated $185,420 yearly loss in Medicaid income due to lack of adequate documentation of services provided for residents.
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