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MN Shutdown Pain Likely Greatest At Nursing Homes

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Part of a state shutdown that has thousands of families worried: Nursing home workers could be declared "non-essential," and state payments could stop. Furthermore, if there's an extend shutdown, some nursing homes could close.

Mrytle Maki, 94, is the face of Minnesota's government shutdown, and hasn't been the same since she got a letter from the government.

"How would you like to get a letter like that? At 94?" asked Maki, who is a 24-year resident at Park River Estates Care Center in Coon Rapids.

The letter, from Anoka County Human Services, tells Maki that if the government shuts down, she might have trouble getting health care or lose it altogether.

It's the kind of letter that's frightening to thousands of seniors across the state.

"It don't make me feel good," Maki said.

In the event of a shutdown, Park River Estates Care Center and hundreds of other nursing homes could be hit hard. In addition to nursing home workers possibly not being considered essential, Medicaid payments could stop, medical transportation for seniors could be sharply curtailed and, most importantly, nursing home administrators say some homes could close.

"If I had staff that were acting like the politicians, in all honesty I would let them go," says Tom Pollock, Park River Estates administrator. "I would hire people who would work together because we've got a common goal, and that's the care of the residents."

As nursing homes scramble to find money to pay workers if there's a government shutdown, the uncertainty is leaving some seniors angry.

They say money should be cut to politicians who 'didn't do their jobs'.

"If nobody else is going to get paid, why should they get paid?" asked Clifford Jacobson of Fridley, who's recuperating from a broken knee.

Maki says she's been praying since she got the shutdown letter, and she's not sure what will happen to her.

"It's wrong. Why do they want to do this to me?" she asked.

Minnesota Nursing homes may take legal action next week to force uninterrupted service, even in a shutdown.

A court could decide as early as next week what services are essential, and which are not.

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