Three Links to merge with St. Francis Health Systems; Back to school safety advice; City Council will meet tonight | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

It was announced last week that Three Links, the senior living and long-term care facility that has operated in Northfield for nearly a century-and-a-quarter, will be merging with Morris, Minnesota based St. Francis Health Services. The announcement serves as another sign of the times in direct and long-term health care.  

Nursing homes across the country were hit extremely hard during the Covid-19 pandemic. Labor shortages, supply chain problems, and the day-to-day issues of managing Covid-19 were compounded by an inflation rate higher than any other sector of the American Economy.  

And while anyone connected with direct care was trying to tell the Federal Government that their expenses were far out ahead of the Medicare and Medicaid refunds, which is the vast majority of funding for those facilities, Jay Pizinger, the CEO and CFO of Three Links said the government was very slow to respond.  

“One of the things that happened during the pandemic was, as a country, we experienced 8-11% inflation. But in healthcare, it was probably closer to 20%. Our funding sources didn’t acknowledge that, and they waited probably 2 years to adjust for it.” 

The pandemic had dire consequences for Three Links itself. During a two-week period in November of 2020, Pizinger said 22 of Three Links residents died with Covid-19. That set off a mass exodus of personnel. By the end of November, he said, more than 120 Three Links employees, fully one-third of the staff, resigned. He said the majority of those who quit left the healthcare industry altogether.  

At some point in 2022, Pizinger said the organization’s cash reserves fell below what he called “the safety level,” giving them about a year to find a new direction. Eventually, conversations began with St. Francis, and now the three campuses of Three Links will come under their direction.  

Pizinger said there will not be much change for the residents. St. Francis is a Catholic based organization, sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Cloud, and he said that will be a change, but mostly the biggest changes will be at the management level, where he said he sees more “robust” leadership styles coming into play.   

The way the organization interacts with its residents, its clients, and with the Northfield community, he said, will not change.  

“Moving forward, the mantra was that we wanted to continue to deliver exceptional care and also to retain all employees. That is going to happen. We also want to continue to be a very strong community partner in Northfield. And our identity will remain the same. We will be called Three Links Health Services. So, the familiar things will continue.” 

An announcement letter signed by Pizinger and St. Francis President and CEO Carol Raw said the merger will be in place by November 1st.  

Jeff Johnson’s full conversation with Three Links CEO and CFO Jay Pizinger can be heard here 

Elliott asks drivers to be careful with school back in session 

Northfield Police Chief Mark Elliott

Today is the first day of school in the Northfield Area School District. With school buses back out on the roads, and kids making their way to school on bikes or on foot, the community is being reminded how important it is to remain patient and vigilant in protecting the safety of our young people.  

Northfield Chief of Police Mark Elliott said everyone must be aware of the laws with regards to school buses. Whenever a school bus is picking students up, or dropping them off, everything else has to come to a halt.  

“When the bus is stopped, the red lights are flashing, and the stop arm is out, you have to stop.  Not only behind the bus but coming the other way too. Just give the kids a little extra room. Give them an extra minute, or most in most cases it’s a few seconds, for them to safely get across the road to get on the bus and to get off the bus.” 

Elliott took some time to praise the Benjamin Bus Company, who he said has been a good partner in promoting child safety. Each bus, thanks to a state grant the company received during the Covid-19 pandemic, now has a camera on the stop arm, keeping track of those who do not stop when they are supposed to.  

He said the NPD will have officers out in the school areas every day, making sure things run smoothly and safely as the kids are delivered to school.  

A controversy has developed in some parts of the state regarding School Resource Officers and new state legislation passed in the spring regarding the way officers are allowed to restrain people. That has caused a handful of jurisdictions to discontinue the practice of placing School Resource Officers in schools. There has been no talk of that in Northfield to this point. Elliott said the district has one SRO, and three others who spend time with 5th graders teaching the D.A.R.E. program. He said the police department accepts other invitations to be in the schools, as well, in order to show students that police officers are there to help them and protect them.  

 “We spend some other time in the schools too. Occasionally our building heads or principals invite us to come over, sometimes it’s teachers in some of the health classes. We may be talking about safety aspects, that type of thing. Or we’re guest speaking at some of the other classes at the high school or middle school as well. We’ve guests served lunches, which is a good opportunity in an elementary school. Really these are good opportunities to just connect with kids.” 

Jeff Johnson’s full conversation with Northfield Chief of Police Mark Elliott can be heard here

City Council meets tonight 

And the Northfield City Council will meet tonight in the Council Chambers in City Hall.   

The items on a light agenda are public hearings on a currency exchange license and the vacation of a drainage easement.   

When the regular meeting has concluded, the Council will adjourn from the Council Chambers to the second-floor training room in City Hall for another budgeting work session, where the council will be presented with three new options for the 2024 preliminary tax levy. What had originally been consideration of options at 7.8%, 10.4% or 12.8%, will now become options of 15.3%, 16.5% or 18.5%.  

As always, the city and the council are asking to hear opinions and comments from the public. Anyone who wishes to do so is invited to come to the meeting and address the council on any topic they see fit. Those wishing to voice their opinions without addressing the council should email their councilors directly or post a comment through the eComment button on the “Agendas” section of the City Council website.   

Tonight’s meeting will begin at 6:00.   

Rich Larson is the KYMN News Director. Contact him at [email protected] 


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