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York County-owned Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is being considered for sale by county commissioners. At the first of three meetings planned to gather public input in the decision, at the county 911 center in Springettsbury Township Feb. 13, county residents and residents and employees of Pleasant Acres made it clear that they do not want to sell. The York Dispatch

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More than 100 people spoke with one voice to York County commissioners on Tuesday: Don't do this.

The commissioners are considering the sale of county-owned Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and they have more than a dozen potential buyers.

But on Tuesday, Feb. 13, many people spoke out against those plans at the county 911 center in Springettsbury Township during the first of three town hall meetings planned for public comment on the decision. The attendees included residents from across the county and employees and residents of the nursing home.

During an hour of public comment, they voiced their concerns that privately run nursing homes have a lower quality of care, more staff who travel from one facility to another, fewer workers and higher costs.

Pleasant Acres employee Brenda Disla said she previously worked in a private nursing home in Lehigh Valley, and she felt it was all about making a profit.

"It's not the same. It's not at all," she said of the difference between county-owned and private facilities. "It's all about the Benjamins." 

They expressed disappointment that the county is not willing to spend money on the only county service from which everyone will benefit as they age.

"The people of York County want Pleasant Acres," said Stephanie Freed, of York City. 

Several employees also called out commissioners for not taking the time to visit Pleasant Acres themselves, noting that Commissioner Susan Byrnes was the only one they had seen there often.

Michael Wascovich, a member of the Hallam Borough Council, echoed the pleas of attendees, urging commissioners to reconsider.

"I am urging you tonight to withdraw this," he said. "Withdraw it completely."

Byrnes reassured those in attendance, saying, "We have not made a decision."

Potential buyers: Susquehanna Group Advisors announced Tuesday that it published a request for proposal that went out to more than 20 potential owner-operators of existing nursing homes.

Twelve or 13 potential buyers responded with interest in the sale, signing non-disclosure agreements to find out more information about Pleasant Acres.

The county commissioners voted to begin soliciting bids for the sale of the nursing home at a meeting Jan. 31, hiring the Harrisburg-based group to find potential buyers for the facility.

More: York County exploring possible sale of Pleasant Acres Nursing Center

More: County seeking public input on selling Pleasant Acres nursing home

County spokesman Mark Walters has said this would not guarantee its sale. 

The consulting group will "explore the possibility of finding a reputable, quality, skilled-care operator," The York Dispatch reported, but since taxpayers own the nursing home, commissioners want to hear what they have to say before making a decision.

"For the last 10-plus years, Pleasant Acres has operated at a loss," said Jay Wenger, the group's manager, at Tuesday's town hall. "Those losses continue to grow."

He continued, saying the budgeted operating deficit for 2018 is expected to be in excess of $11 million.

What happens if it sells? Wenger said fewer than 20 counties in the state own and operate a skilled nursing center. At least three other counties in the state are seriously contemplating the sale of their nursing homes as well, he said.

"In our experience, very few nursing home jobs are lost in the transition," he said.

New owners will want the continuity of employees who are fully invested in resident care and the company, Wenger said.

If the facility is sold, commissioners will impose the stipulation on buyers that they must operate it as a skilled nursing center for 15 years, he said. If during that time the owner decides to sell, Wenger said the owner will be required to sell it to another owner-operator of skilled nursing facilities in Pennsylvania.

The focus will be to increase revenue and decrease the use of temporary workers.

Other requirements of the sale would be that the new owner must accept all residents currently staying in the facility and pledge to maintain an approximate percentage of residents on Medicaid.

Currently, about 90 percent of residents are on Medicaid, Wenger said, so they would set the bar at 80 percent. A new owner couldn't bring in Medicare residents to replace Medicaid residents or turn it into a private pay facility.

Once buyers are narrowed down, commissioners plan to tour the potential buyers' facilities to see how they operate and how employees interact with residents.

"This is not going to be a blind process where we just take their word for what they do," Wenger said.

The process of  submitting a request for proposals, evaluating bids and meeting with potential buyers is expected to take about six to nine months, Wenger told the Dispatch at the last meeting.

Two more meetings to discuss the potential sale with the public are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 7 and March 27 at Central York High School, 601 Mundis Mill Road in Springettsbury Township.

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