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A Belleville nursing home shut down. Here’s why and what happened to its residents

Willowcreek Rehab and Nursing Home in Belleville has closed.
Joshua Carter
Belleville News-Democrat
Willowcreek Rehab and Nursing Home in Belleville has closed.

Editor's note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat.

The Willowcreek Rehab & Nursing center in west Belleville has closed and most of the residents moved across town to Four Fountains, which is owned and operated by the same company that ran Willowcreek.

Willowcreek, which was at 40 N. 64th St., shut down because of financial issues, according to Steve Miller, the owner and operator of the two nursing homes under the Helia Healthcare company.

Miller, who said he operates 21 nursing homes with 16 in Illinois and five in Missouri, said there were not enough residents at Willowcreek to keep the business solvent.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a decline in the number of residents and, secondarily, families have become “more reluctant” to admit loved ones to a nursing facility, Miller said.

The number of Willowcreek residents had dropped by about 40 percent in the past four years.

When a nursing home closes, residents have a right to choose where they go and Miller said all but one of the Willowcreek residents decided to go to Four Fountains, which is at 101 South Belt West in Belleville. The person who didn’t go to Four Fountains went to the Helia Heathcare center in Salem.

“You reduce your overhead considerably when you provide the services for the same total number of residents but under one roof, not under two,” Miller said.

Willowcreek had about 35 residents when it closed last month.

Miller said about half of the Willowcreek residents need a ventilator to help with their breathing. He noted most nursing homes do not have the capabilities to handle residents who need a ventilator but a section of Four Fountains has been dedicated to residents who require such care.

Transferring the residents from Willowcreek to Four Fountains went “very smoothly” and he praised his staff for their planning.

All Willowcreek employees were offered jobs at Four Fountains and many of them made the move.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, which regulates nursing homes, said Willowcreek closed on Feb. 8 and confirmed that it was due to financial reasons.

Miller, who had operated Willowcreek since 2005, said he leased the Willowcreek building and that he and the building owner are seeking ways to find another tenant.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter who covers the Belleville area for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.