Families voice concerns about care managementPeople came from near and far for one purpose: to address concerns about how the care their loved ones receive is delivered through NorthernBridges, the organization contracted to manage that care.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
People came from near and far for one purpose: to address concerns about how the care their loved ones receive is delivered through NorthernBridges, the organization contracted to manage that care.
Staff from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services was in Superior on Friday to give people a chance to share those concerns.
“No one should have to wait a year for incontinence supplies,” one woman piped in. “That’s a human-dignity issue.”
But that was just the tip of the iceberg as families and guardians of loved ones with maladies of all kinds shared their stories with staff from the Wisconsin agency responsible for the contracts with managed care organizations delivering long-term care through the state’s Family Care program.
From calls that went unreturned and months-long delays in having issues addressed to care recipients not receiving proper evaluations, there was no shortage of stories to be told.
About 70 people packed into the meeting room at the Superior Public Library.
“Our goal is really to be good listeners today,” said Beth-May Wroblewski, deputy administrator of the Division of Long Term Care. While some issues have been addressed since a meeting with family members in February in Madison, during Superior Days, she said there are concerns that remain. “Our goal is to assure the best member care and quality that we can for people who have long-term support needs.”
Barb Solis came from southern Wisconsin to join family members in sharing their concerns for her younger brother, a 53-year-old man who has severe cerebral palsy, among other issues.
When Missouri Gardens in Superior closed there was a need to move her brother to another facility where he could receive the care he needs. While he is settling into a new community-based residential facility, Solis said getting to that point was no easy task.
“There have been so many meetings,” Solis said. “I couldn’t tell you how many.”
She said the family met with providers at her brother’s new residence on March 11. Since then a lot of issues have been addressed, but some remain.
Still, she said, the situation took a toll on her “remarkably happy” brother, who had to wait eight weeks to get the correct ostomy supplies. Solis said her brother seemed depressed to family members.
“You could see it in his eyes; you could hear it in his voice,” Solis said.
“My daughter has been in a facility since Jan. 21, 2012,” Kathy Lisdahl said. “First of all she was misdiagnosed, and eventually ended up at the Mayo (Clinic).”
She said it was a fight to get her daughter to a facility in the Duluth area, one she believes was resolved because she called Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar.
Jauch and South Range Democrat Rep. Nick Milroy, who has been working on issues surrounding Family Care, attended Friday’s meeting.
For Lisdahl, the goal is to bring her daughter home. That was the plan devised by NorthernBridges, she said, but Lisdahl’s been fighting since October. In January, she applied to change how her daughter’s care is managed to IRIS, a self-directed support program, with the hope of being able to bring her home she shares with her husband.
“She owes over $2,000 … we’ve spent all of her savings, and to top it off, her cancer has returned and we do not know if they can do anything,” she said. “We want her home. … We have been threatened by NorthernBridges that if we take her home, we would be turned in to the county for an unsafe or abusive situation. I have taken care of my daughter for 33 years.”
Lisdahl said she wonders what happens to people in the managed-care system who don’t have parents or families to fight for them.
“She should have quality of life no matter how long she has to live, Lisdahl said.
For Judy Pahos, a guardian of her sister with Down syndrome, the problem was a lack of intervention when a care provider planned to eliminate night staff and use an alarm system to alert the residents if one left the house at night.
The residents would have been left unsafe in the event of an emergency such as a fire or a break-in, she said. That concern was driven home when one of the five residents collapsed, Pahos said.
“Luckily there was staff there,” she said.
John McMahon, chief executive officer, and Rita Mueller, chief operating officer for NorthernBridges, encouraged people having trouble getting a return call from a case worker to contact them directly.
Even coming forward to fight for her brother’s care proved a scary proposition for Solis and her family. They feared a backlash that would diminish the quality of her brother’s life, Solis said.
Margaret Kristan, bureau director of the state Office of Family Care, said it was helpful to her to hear the stories the families shared to address the problems.
Douglas County Supervisor Pat Ryan, who organized the meeting with Supervisor Mary Lou Bergman, said it was a good meeting and she’s hoping to keep the lines of communication open.
Another meeting with NorthernBridges staff is planned for 9 a.m. Friday in Room 207 of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1313 Belknap St., Superior.