Panel suggests nursing and rehabilitation center sale
Butler County should sell its cash-bleeding nursing home or turn over its management to another operator, a committee told county commissioners Wednesday.
A third option proffered by the valuation committee for Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is to continue as is and hire a consultant to trim costs.
“In the interest of taxpayers … you need to explore options to stop the losses,” said former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey, who headed the study.
The recommendations mirrored those presented in a Sept. 30 appraisal by Carbis Walker LLP, a New Castle consultant that placed the 220-bed facility’s market value between $8.5 million and $12 million. The commissioners put off accepting the Carbis Walker report to allow Roddey and his group to examine the facility’s finances.
Roddey, who once studied the Kane Regional hospitals in Allegheny County and recommended their privatization, said Butler County is on pace to lose $600,000 this year if things aren’t changed.
“Nursing and rehabilitative care is not the core business of the county,” he said. “It is very difficult to succeed in any business venture where the business is not a core aspect of what you do each and every day.”
Commissioners accepted the report without voting on any of the proposals and did not publicly favor any one option. At least one made clear he was against selling the facility outright.
“If it’s sold and privatized, we’d have no control of it,” Commissioner James C. Lokhaiser said. “We’ve dumped millions into improving it. Why sell it?”
Commissioners A. Dale Pinkerton and James L. Kennedy said they hadn’t made up their minds but generally felt the committee’s report validated findings of the Carbis Walker appraisal.
“Having three options instead of just one helps. So does having an outside group look at things,” said Pinkerton, the commission chair. “We can go with one of them or none of them.”
There is no deadline for the commission to render its decision. The committee chaired by Roddey was volunteer and will not be paid by the county.
Occupancy at the nursing home was 93.4 percent in 2008 and 96.8 percent in the first months of 2009, according to the committee’s report.
The Carbis Walker report, authorized by the county Feb. 4, said the center’s operating expenses hit $18.1 million in 2008, compared with $14.4 million just five years ago. Meantime, reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, which covers the bills of a majority of center clients, are projected to decline. The county provides about $1 million each year to help fund the nursing home — money that comes from county property tax revenues.
Earlier this month, commissioners voted to eliminate Sunnyview’s laundry department and outsource the work to the state prison in Somerset. The move did away with 11 positions and is expected to save the county about $250,000 a year.