New owner of Pleasant Acres promises to maintain high level of care

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Lisa Sofia, CEO of Premier Healthcare Management, speaks during a news conference Thursday, May 3, at Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center as York County Commissioner Chris Reilly looks on. Premier is expected to take ownership of the nursing home in July. (Photo by David Weissman)

Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center will soon join a growing list of nursing homes in Pennsylvania that used to be county-owned.

A receptionist at the center's main entrance Thursday was wearing a "Save Pleasant Acres" pin emblematic of the campaign to keep the home under county control, but down the hall, the CEO of Pleasant Acres' new for-profit owner was being introduced to the media.

The York County Commissioners voted 2-to-1 in favor of selling the facility on Wednesday, May 2, and subsequently chose Premier Healthcare Management as their preferred buyer — for $30.8 million.

More:York County commissioners vote to sell Pleasant Acres for $30.8 million

The county has operated a nursing home since 1805, and the current 375-bed facility in Springettsbury Township has been operating since 1931.

Lisa Sofia, Premier's CEO, said she's watched footage of the town-hall meetings where Pleasant Acres staff, residents and county citizens widely criticized the idea of selling the home, and she understands their fears but wants to assure everyone that the level of care residents currently receive will not change.

She emphasized that no current residents will be kicked out of the facility, no one's costs will rise, and they will continue to accept any county resident that needs care.

The facility will keep the name Pleasant Acres, she added.

Premier, based out of Long Island and Philadelphia, operates 23 nursing homes in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to Sofia.

The 375-bed Springettsbury Township facility will become the company's largest when they officially take it over, Sofia said, which is scheduled to happen about July 15.

Deer Meadows Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia, which is the facility commissioners and other county representatives visited before making their decision, is similar in size, she said.

Premier also has purchased county-owned nursing homes in Armstrong, Butler, Schuylkill and Washington counties in recent years.

York County is one of just 18 counties still operating a nursing home, as county governments have decided to sell amid rising health care costs. The county has subsidized Pleasant Acres to the tune of about $75 million during the past 10 years.

Sofia said Premier is able to turn a profit at facilities losing money under county control by bringing in its team of professionals, using economies of scale and negotiating from a position of strength.

More:Results mixed for other counties that sold nursing homes

More:Final Pleasant Acres town hall ends abruptly due to 'personal attack' on commissioner

The company's history of good compliance allows it to advocate for higher Medicaid reimbursement rates from the state than county governments receive, she said.

Commissioner Doug Hoke, the lone commissioner dissenting to the sale, said everyone who was against the sale needs to get behind the new ownership to ensure a positive transition.

Tamatha Hetrick, administrator at Pleasant Acres, said that Wednesday — after receiving the news that the home would be sold — was a "very up-and-down day" for her team because many enjoyed being county employees.

Tamatha Hetrick, administrator at Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. (Photo by David Weissman)

At the news conference, she said employees' attitudes seemed to improve Thursday as they learned more about Premier and the transition.

"I think this is going to be OK," Hetrick said.

A Right-to-Know request made by The York Dispatch found that 22 Pleasant Acres employees — some of whom had worked there for decades — have resigned or retired since the county announced it was exploring a possible sale in late January, and three more have given notice of intent to retire during the next few months.

Sofia said it's typical to see nursing home employees leave ahead of a sale because of fear of the unknown, but she's found that many return once they see a smooth transition.

She expects to maintain about 95 percent of the current staff based on the company's history in taking over other county-owned facilities, she said.

York County President Commissioner Susan Byrnes asks the public to stay to hear their choice of who will purchase the Pleasant Acres Nursing Home as people walk out of public meeting following the vote, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

President Commissioner Susan Byrnes — who proved to be the deciding vote after Hoke and Commissioner Chris Reilly made their positions known — said that, while Premier will soon own Pleasant Acres, the county will still be involved in the facility.

The county has agreed to create a $1 million Pleasant Acres endowment fund — with costs split between the county and Premier — to help take care of residents.

Premier also has agreed to invest more than $4 million in capital improvements to the facility during the next five years. Sofia said those improvements will be made based on recommendations from current staff.

Hetrick said improved technology throughout the center is their main request.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.