York, Pa. — York County officials are considering getting out of the nursing home business.
County commissioners approved a motion to begin the search to find a buyer for its Pleasant Acres Nursing Home in Springettsbury Township.
It’s the first step to find a new owner to take over operations.
While county commissioners say it will save taxpayers money, not everyone is happy about the decision to sell.
Word that Pleasant Acres may no longer be referred to as the York County nursing home if the county finds a buyer, reached patients and staff.
Pleasant Acres Nursing Home unit clerk Cheri Fulcher said “there’s been a lot of talk about it for a couple years now, so I wasn’t really shocked. I was very disappointed, sad.”
York County commissioners cite spending $75 million of taxpayer dollars over the last ten years, as one of the reasons they believe the county should put the county nursing home up for sale.
York County commissioners president Susan Byrnes said “in addition to that, we’ve put in $8 to $10 million in capital needs. We also paid fines for the Department of Health of over $300,000. We can not continue as taxpayers to continue to do that.”
Pleasant Acres Nursing Home maintenance and mechanics operator Susan March said “I pay $7,000 every year for taxes, so I feel as if we pay our way. Maybe they can’t budget their money correctly, I don’t know, but I feel as if there is a better way.”
York County commissioners are not alone in their decision.
Susquehanna Group Advisors consultant Jay Wenger said “in the last several years, most of the counties in south central Pennsylvania have already sold the few remaining. Berks County just announced they are considering it, but they haven’t made any commitment. I know of at least two other counties in the center part of the state that are discussing it.”
“The firms that are going to express interest do this every day, at multiple locations. They understand reimbursement. They understand employment. They understand negotiating contracts. They’re very good, and very attentive to what they do every day,” Wenger said.
This comes as no consolation to some Pleasant Acres staff members.
“My father was there, he had cancer, and he chose to fight. If it hadn’t been for Pleasant Acres taking him, he could have been four or five counties away. We wouldn’t have been able to be with him like we were, with him right here in York County,” Fulcher said.
"I never heard one nurse come in there, and say anything good about a privatized facility,” March said.
York County commissioners said Pleasant Acres Nursing Home is costing the county money and that its time to sell.
“Right now, in the budget it’s $11.2 million, next year it’s going to be $13 million. As I stated in the meeting today, we have elderly people that when we raise their taxes, they call us and say 'we are going to be put out of our homes,'” Byrnes said.
It's why county commissioners agreed to hire Susquehanna Group Advisors to help them find a potential buyer for Pleasant Acres.
“The decision is to explore the possibility to find an organization that will have the same culture and values as we do at Pleasant Acres. It’s going to be a six to nine month process,” Byrnes said.
Some staff members expressed their concerns not only for themselves, but for patients.
“The contract will stipulate that residents can not be discharged, so any resident of Pleasant Acres who is there at the time of the transition, is entitled to stay,” Wenger said.
With plans for only a ten-year contract, some Pleasant Acres staff members still have concerns about what happens next.
“There’s people that will not be able to afford the pay cuts, the loss of benefits that we’re probably going to take. So, they’re going to leave, and that’s going to leave a lot if openings, and we already struggle to stay staffed,” Fulcher said.
“I have no idea what type of stipulations they can put on it for it to be privatized, but it just don’t sound good,” March said.
“It’s expensive to interview. It’s expensive to hire and train. The turnover rate for new employees is generally pretty high, particularly in the health care industry, because its a challenging job. So, what a new owner would really prefer is that the employees who are already there and working, and showing up every day, continue to do so,” Wenger said.
Wenger said there are no guarantees, but believes they will find the best company to do the job.
“We see very very little job loss as a result of a transition. The reality is there are job openings at Pleasant Acres now. The next guy in is going to try and fill those jobs, so what they are probably going to say to the commissioners is that we would expect to hire and not fire,” Wenger said.
“I really care about our nursing home, about our residents, my fellow staff, and I want to see it stay in the county,” Fulcher said.
York County officials will continue the conversation with county residents.
Several meetings are scheduled over the next two months to listen to public comment.
“I think it’s all about money, and that’s unfortunate,” Fulcher said.
Meetings are planned for February 13th, March 7th, and March 27th, between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm, at York County's 911 Communications Center (120 Davies Drive, Springettsbury Township, York County).