Margot Roedel, CEO, Tuscola County Medical Care Facility, talks with resident Eleanor Marker, 88, in one of the organization’s new “small houses.”

Tuscola County Medical Care Facility to double in size

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Margot Roedel, CEO, Tuscola County Medical Care Facility (left) chats with resident Eleanor Marker, 88, Tuesday (Photos by John Cook)

CARO — The Tuscola County Medical Care Facility is set to “easily” double in size – with a goal of offering area seniors more assisted-living options and bringing more jobs to the Thumb region.

Margot Roedel, CEO, Tuscola County Medical Care Facility (TCMCF), has facilitated the purchase of about 25 acres of county-owned land adjacent to the organization’s facilities on Cleaver Road (M-24) in Caro. The cost is $210,000 spread over three years. The reason, she said, is to secure land to expand operations.

The purchase is in addition to 16 acres the organization bought several years ago from the former Davenport University in Caro – a move that already helped TCMCF open two “small houses” that are anything but at about 11,000 square feet, and rooms for up to 10 residents and cost about $7.6 million.

Roedel said plans are in the works to build another four “small houses” across from the two already built.

Roedel told The Advertiser that it was too early to announce definite timelines, but that when it’s all said and done, the total facility will “easily” be double its current size (159 beds and 350 employees).

 “My purpose in trying to get that land now is to leave the center with some options for expansion otherwise they will be land-locked again just like we used to be,” Roedel said.

TCMCF is owned by Tuscola County. It provides skilled nursing services for patients who have a wide variety of medical needs that can’t be managed from home – from patients with Alzheimer’s to those who need help with short-term rehabilitation, such as those who have had hip replacements.

According to the 2014 Tuscola County annual financial report, TCMCF had revenue of about $18 million in 2014 – up from about $17.1 million in 2013. However, TCMCF expenses for 2014 were about $19.7 million, putting it in the red by about $1.7 million for 2014.

The history of TCMCF dates to the 1860s, when the county bought a 160-acre farm for $1,200 at its current location in Caro. The initial purpose was to serve as the “county poor house,” according to TCMCF’s website.

During the farm’s earliest days, common conditions treated at the farmhouse included “loss of property,” “incorrigibility,” and “driven from home by husband.”

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The Tuscola County Medical Care facility bought this 25 acres from the county for $210,000 to accommodate future expansion. The land is west of the main building.

In 1939, the farmhouse was converted to serve as a hospital – only to be deemed too old and unsafe by the state fire marshal.

Through a millage vote in 1956, a new building was funded and constructed. In 2003, a major renovation took place at the building. That project was completed in 2005.

In 2011, TCMCF continued growing when it bought the former Davenport University complex – including about 16 acres of property – for about $1.2 million.

At the time of the Davenport purchase, Roedel told The Advertiser TCMCF was “land-locked” and needed room to accommodate anticipated need to grow and serve the community.

“I looked all over the county for land,” said Roedel, who has been with TCMCF for 15 years. “I just couldn’t set my heart on it because I wanted it all on one campus. And then Davenport called and said they were moving and wondered if we wanted to buy.”

Today, the former Davenport building serves as home to TCMCF administration offices. Part of the property along the western edge that had been vacant is where the two “small houses” have been built. Another part of the property – currently vacant and to the south of the administration offices – is where Roedel said the next four will be built.

The “small houses” are for those who prefer more privacy and independence, Roedel said, which is common especially for those who are of baby boomer age.

They feature rooms that many have decorated with pictures and other knick-knacks to make their rooms truly feel like home, Roedel said.

The “small houses” also feature large dining areas – each has a 700-pound table with enough seating for up to 25 – along with large kitchen areas and plenty of room for wheelchairs to maneuver, whether residents want to watch TV, do a puzzle or visit the beauty salon (when open).

And care a provided through what is known in the industry as “person-centered approach,” Roedel said.

Eleanor Marker, 88, moved to one of the small houses when they opened last November.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s so homey. You aren’t restricted with all kinds of rules. You just go about your daily living.”

The 25 acres to the west of the main complex is where Roedel said she expects a second large building to be constructed. That building would be similar in size to the existing main building.

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The Tuscola County Medical Care Facility has built two of these “small houses” with plans to build four more.

Roedel said today there are 159 beds at TCMCF – all full.

There is a list of people waiting to get into the facility, she said.

Roedel said she “isn’t going to be at this job forever,” but wants to make sure that the medical center is prepared to meet future needs.

That’s why she said she was hesitant to give an exact timeline.

“It’s all about money,” Roedel said. “We have to have enough money to build more.”

Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at andrew@tcadvertiser.com

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