Firesteel Healthcare Center in Mitchell has been sold to a firm based in the state of Washington.

EmpRes Healthcare Management will take over management on Feb. 1 at the 1120 E. Seventh Ave. site. The facility will officially take the Firesteel Healthcare Center name, as it was previously known as Firesteel Healthcare Community under Welcov Healthcare, the previous owners of the long-term nursing care facility, which has 168 beds.

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"We are excited to welcome Firesteel into our family," said Brent Weil, President and CEO of EmpRes Healthcare said in a statement announcing the acquisition. "Smaller communities like Mitchell fit our employee owned culture and family approach to care."

The announcement comes on the heels of news that Welcov is struggling and preparing to go out of business. The Torrington Telegram in Wyoming quoted Welcov President Tom Boerboom earlier this month saying the company has experienced challenges and is "winding down operations." He said the company will eventually cease to exist. The company has recently been turning over management of its facilities to other health care companies.

EmpRes owns more than 60 locations in seven Western states, and Firesteel will be its first South Dakota location. The company, based in Vancouver, Washington, is employee owned and operated by members of the communities it serves.

"We understand that we are likely one of the largest employers in the community," said Weil. "We intend to keep local leadership in place and to foster relationships to better meet the needs of the Mitchell community."

The Firesteel facility dates back to 1966, and was owned by the family of Ron Gates from 1984 to 2010, when it was sold to Minneapolis-based Mission Healthcare. In 2013, Mission Healthcare rebranded as Welcov (pronounced well-cove) Healthcare.

At that time, Welcov had more than 50 locations around the Upper Midwest, and in 2015, the company borrowed $56 million to help fund expansion opportunities, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

An $8 million renovation and addition was completed at the facility in July 2017, adding 20 more beds to the facility, and renovating the physical, occupational and speech therapy spaces. The expansion included two transitional care wings to the building, as well.

In the press release, EmpRes said it plans to invest in significant capital improvements in the building's physical plant

"Firesteel will continue to offer a full range of skilled nursing and rehabilitation services, post-acute care, a dedicated therapy wing, outpatient therapy, music therapy, and a secured memory care unit," the release said. "Additionally, Firesteel will continue to accept veteran's contracts."