Save Pleasant Acres supporters hold meeting, ask county for more time
As York County commissioners move closer toward a final decision about selling Pleasant Acres, supporters of keeping the nursing home under county control held their own meeting on the topic Friday, April 20.
The meeting was hosted by the Northeastern Senior Community Center in Mount Wolf, and Commissioners Chris Reilly and Doug Hoke attended to answer some of the residents' questions. President Commissioner Susan Byrnes had a prior obligation, according to Hoke.
Deb Davis, director of the center, said she helped organize the meeting because she sends the seniors she helps to Pleasant Acres once they can no longer stay in their own homes.
The county have hosted three town-hall meetings about the potential sale, but commissioners were mostly just listening and not answering questions during those meetings.
Toward the end of Friday's meeting, one of the approximately 60 attendees asked Reilly and Hoke to consider postponing their decision for at least a year to allow for supporters to find other cost-saving opportunities.
County commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with Susquehanna Group Advisors in late January to explore the possibility of selling the 375-bed nursing home.
They received six bids ranging from $26 million to $32 million and have narrowed it down to three finalists: Allaire Health Services, Long Term Care LLC and Premier Healthcare Inc.
Hoke said they have visited nursing homes operated by each of the finalists, and a final decision will likely be made at a public meeting in the near future.
Hoke said after the meeting that he would consider postponing the decision, but he acknowledged that the prolonged uncertainty could have negative consequences on Pleasant Acres employees.
Jason Rodes, a longtime Pleasant Acres employee who helped organize the meeting, said he and other employees want the extra time to show they can save the county money.
The county’s contract with Teamsters Local 776, the union representing the nursing home employees, expires at the end of the year. Rodes said if commissioners postpone their vote, he and co-workers he’s consulted would be willing to take a pay freeze, meaning they would continue working for their current salaries without a raise.
Jay Wenger, managing director of Susquehanna Group Advisors, said the offers the county has received will not hold for a year, and the county would have to start the process from scratch if commissioners decided to wait.
Reilly, who has publicly stated his support for selling Pleasant Acres for years because of the high taxpayer burden, said the only way he will support keeping the center under county control is if the subsidy is significantly reduced or eliminated.
“How much burden can York County taxpayers bear?” Reilly asked. “I believe we’ve reached a breaking point.”
The meeting briefly turned heated as some attendees argued with Reilly about numbers related to operating Pleasant Acres and potentially raising taxes, but that ire quickly turned toward the state and federal government as the commissioners explained why a private company would be able to turn a profit at a public nursing home that is losing money.
“Government is penalized for owning a nursing home,” Reilly said, explaining that state and federal Medicaid reimbursements are higher for private facilities than public ones.
Val Kater, of Chanceford Township, said the discrepancy in reimbursement rates is criminal, and numerous attendees asked what they could do to change that.
Hoke suggested contacting state legislators, and Reilly joked that “we can march down the street right now” to confront Gov. Tom Wolf, who lives in the borough.
Kater, a member of human rights advocacy group Put People First Pennsylvania, urged commissioners to look beyond the numbers they’re seeing right now and consider what’s best for senior citizens.
“If private companies want to take our public good … it must be something worth defending,” she said.
— Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.