Sandstone Healthcare Center nursing home open and taking residents

July 14, 2017


The Sandstone Health Care Center, LLC, formerly Essentia Health-Sandstone Health Care Center (nursing home), is open and taking new patients. With rumors of the nursing home facility closing after Essentia hospital moved to its new campus on Lundorff Drive, the nursing home is operating with much of the same staff and excited about the new start.

The 50-bed nursing home was purchased this spring by co-owners, Tom Opatz and Fred Struzyk, who co-own and manage other nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the cities of Watkins, St. Joseph, and Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

The nursing home is the only skilled nursing home (a nursing home which provides skilled nursing and medical care covered by Medicare) operating in central and northern Pine County, and fortunately for local residents, the Sandstone Health Care Center just happens to have a five-star rating among nursing homes in the state and across the country. The five-star rating is part of the Medicare quality rating system based on health inspections, quality measures and staffing.

The nursing home is wound care certified and offers rehabilitation in physical, occupational and speech therapies seven days per week. Also available on site is post-surgical care, memory care, pain management, radiology, lab work, podiatry, dental care, ophthalmology, audiology, ultrasound, hospice care, IVs, tube feeding and chaplain visitation. In-house doctors perform rounds also as a part of residents’ regular care.

Another reason the nursing home is rated a five-star facility is the low staff turnover. With nursing homes being notorious for high staff turnover, the Sandstone Health Care Center has many tenured employees with work records that go beyond 10 years. Opatz added that the staffing ratio is above state and national standards.

Opatz comes from a healthcare administration and finance background while working in for-profit and non-profit organizations. He appreciates the smaller size of the Sandstone Heath Care Center having worked in both large and small corporations. “Smaller is better for us,” said Opatz. “And I like to be present and hands-on as a business owner.”

Opatz was drawn to the facility because of the small-town environment, being from a small town (Avon) himself. He also felt the demographics supported the need for a nursing home in the area. But one major draw to purchase the former Essentia nursing home was the quality care.

Along with receiving top-rated care, residents are encouraged to fulfill their bucket list of activities. Activities such as fishing trips, casino visits, restaurant trips, bake sales, shopping trips and more are offered weekly. On-campus barbecues are held Friday nights as well. “It’s good to just be outside in Minnesota in the summer,” said Opatz. “Our activities director, Jordan, asks the residents what they would like to do, and activities are based on their interests.” Other on-site activities include morning exercise classes, live music, monthly birthday celebrations, and more.

One of the things that residents appreciate about the facility, Opatz said, is that they are active in making their own decisions and offered a variety of choices in food and activities. He added residents can choose from options such as soups, sandwiches, salads, ice cream and a variety of other items, along with ordering out to $5 Pizza and Chris’ chicken and other eating establishments in town.

Angela Landis, director of nursing, added, “Residents are interviewed upon admission and quarterly to find out their interests. We also have a resident council that meets monthly. This is their home, and we want them to feel at home. We have regular meal times, but they can choose when to eat. They are an active participant in making their choices.” Landis added that the home has an activities kitchen where residents cook weekly. “They cook things and sell to staff. There is also a happy hour.”

Opatz said the the nursing home will see some exciting changes. “We will be updating the campus building,” said Opatz. “We will have more private rooms, a garden area, new windows and raised vegetable gardens.” He added that some residents grow their own vegetables and often cook with them.

Opatz says he is looking forward to working in the community. “I look forward to being part of the full healthcare continuum that Sandstone offers and being the provider of choice, not because it’s one of the only options in the area, but because we are quality care and focused on rural care,” said Opatz.

Opatz and Struzyk acquired the entire campus (both the nursing home area and former Essentia hospital/clinic location) and are still strategizing future plans for the former hospital location and clinic portions of the building. The Essentia ambulance service is still housed in the building along with an office for the North Pine Area Hospital District.

For more information on the nursing home, see its website,, or call (320) 245-3150.


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