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Rep. Jamie Smith is making campaign promises about the nursing home crisis

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) – Twelve nursing homes have closed their doors in South Dakota in the past five years.

Less than a month ago, a group of health professionals, along with some state representatives, gathered in Madison to discuss specific issues facing these nursing homes.

“The costs of doing business on the supply side and on the labor side have gone up significantly more than we’ve seen historically, and payments haven’t kept up,” said Doug Ekeren, longtime head of care at Avera.

This is why nursing homes are closing at such an alarming rate, and this number may increase in the coming years.

At the new Santee Sioux Tribal Care Center in Flandreau on Thursday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jamie Smith promised to address the problem.

“The state data we have shows that 27 nursing homes are at risk of closing by 2023,” said Rep. Smith.

Smith’s campaign promise was that if elected, on day one he would create a task force designed to tackle the problem.

This working group was led by his lieutenant governor.

“We’re finally going to confront South Dakota’s long-term care crisis with long-term solutions. Not a quick fix that moves the problem down the road,” said Jennifer Keinz, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Representative Smith adds that this is only part of the solution.

“The first thing people need to do is vote to expand Medicaid in the state of South Dakota, and we need to implement that change in the state. I know it’s going to help. As far as the rest goes, that’s why we want a task force because you don’t want to do things that don’t help them,” Rep. Smith said.

Candidate for the 15th state district, Linda Duba, believes this task force can solve long-term problems.

“We don’t need a record increase, what we need is a common sense solution to fully fund our Medicaid patients in our nursing homes,” said Rep. Duba.

According to Ekeren, the short-term answer is government funding.

“If we can keep facilities open, keep access to care and have a place for people who need these services. Here we need the help of the state,” said Ekeren.

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