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After nearly 50 years, nursing home shuts

Posted: Thursday, Jul 18th, 2013

This facility, in service since 1964 when it was opened by the St. Joseph Sisters, will close on August 31. This facility, in service since 1964 when it was opened by the St. Joseph Sisters, will close on August 31.

Courier editor

DEL NORTE — Casa Illuminaria, a “house of light,” will go dark on August 31.

Because of cost prohibitive facility repairs and maintenance, the owners of the care center in Del Norte are closing its doors.

With the facility’s closure, there will be no nursing home in the San Luis Valley west of Monte Vista.

The 26 residents and 43 staff are already finding new accommodations and jobs, according to Casa Illuminaria Administrator Barbara Fransen who has been serving as interim administrator while the owners decided what to do with the facility.

“We have got until the end of August, August 31. We have time, and we are helping families and residents find alternate placement,” she said on Wednesday.

Most have so far been able to remain in the San Luis Valley. At least one family is looking at a facility in Salida where the resident could keep her pets. One of the unique qualities of Casa Illuminaria was that it was an Eden facility where pets were welcome, Fransen explained.

She added many of the staff members have already found other employment as well.

“We are trying to stay upbeat and positive, hoping at some point someone will decide to open a facility in this part of the Valley again.”

“These decisions are difficult, and they take a lot of thought,” said owner Jeff Head, “and they are very difficult for everybody involved. It’s not something you want to do. We agonized for several months how we could make it work, but we couldn’t come up with a feasible solution.”

Head said the transition is going as smoothly as possible, due to the hard work and dedication of Fransen and the rest of the staff.

“They are very good staff, dedicated to the work, committed to stay to the end.”

Owners Head and Jim McDonald, who are headquartered in Texas and have owned the property for about four years, were on site at Casa Illuminaria this week.

They commended the staff and operation of the care center, and Fransen said Casa Illuminaria has received a five-star rating, which is not easily accomplished.

“The care was really good, and the employees were all great,” McDonald said.

“The physical plant and age of the building were the main reason [for closure],” Head said.

“It was a unique facility and did unique things other facilities did not do. That’s what made it as special as it was, I believe.”

He said he also enjoyed his involvement with Del Norte.

“There are a lot of great people here.”

Formerly St. Joseph’s, the building housed hospital and nursing home facilities managed by Catholic Sisters before being sold to private ownership. It was built in 1964, about the same time as Evergreen Nursing Home in Alamosa and Juniper Village in Monte Vista. The care center has operated under various owners in recent years and has maintained census numbers in the past as high as 45, some of whom were indigent.

The owners said they had made improvements to the facility, but the maintenance and upkeep of the old physical plant simply became too expensive to feasibly continue. The biggest issue is the systems, which are old, but the building itself is in pretty good shape, they added. A use other than a care center, which has to meet stringent regulations and standards, might work well in the building.

The owners said they are putting the entire 6.5-acre property up for sale, and they are hopeful it can be used for a purpose in the future that will continue to serve the community. There is no definite future plan or buyer at this point.

“We want to see if we can find somebody we could work with that would benefit the community as a whole,” Head said. “This property and this area has been part of the community for a long time. If we can work that and make that happen, that’s our goal.”

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