Q&A: York County commissioner candidates on nursing home
Three Republicans and an equal number of Democrats are running for three seats on the York County Board of Commissioners in the 2015 election.
On the Republican ballot, incumbent Chris Reilly will face challengers Susan Byrnes, a health activist, and Kelly Henshaw, a Red Lion councilman.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Doug Hoke will face challengers Henry Nixon, a York City councilman, and Duane Hull, a former Dover Township supervisor.
The top two vote-getters in the May 19 primary from each party will advance to the general election in November.
Sitting President Commissioner Steve Chronister has said he plans to run as an Independent in November; he withdrew from the Republican ballot when his nomination petition was challenged.
As part of its election coverage, The York Dispatch asked each candidate in the primary a series of questions on issues the county faces. This is the last in the series of questions. To view their responses to all of the questions, go to yorkdispatch.com and click on the election tab.
Question: From 2002 to 2014 the county has spent $63 million to subsidize the operation of Pleasant Acres Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. Should the county continue to operate a nursing home at a loss to taxpayers? Does it have a responsibility to do so?
•Reilly: Pleasant Acres is a wonderful facility that provides excellent care to the residents. However we can't continue to look the other way while the PAN&RC (nursing home) runs multi-million dollar deficits. If the state does not increase Medicaid reimbursements the problem will only get worse. Every year the PAN&RC compromises our ability to balance the county budget.
•Henshaw: Pleasant Acres Nursing & Rehabilitation Center employs hundreds of York County residents and is home to hundreds more. When talking about the finances of the nursing home, we can never forget the impact those decisions will have on the residents and their families along with the hundreds of employees. With that said, it is no secret that the nursing home is a burden on the county budget. I believe that every effort should be made to control spending and trim the losses as much as possible. While ensuring the highest level of care for the residents is certainly a priority, something must be done to reduce the burden on the taxpayers.
•Byrnes: In 1805, York County built the "Almshouse" in the city to care for the poor of the county.
In 1929, 140 acres of land was purchased "5 miles east of York" that now encompasses the East End Complex.
Today, Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (PANRC) has 375 skilled care beds; 32 independent living units and 494 paid employees including a full-time medical director.
To clarify, from 2002 to 2014 the county has spent $35.5 million to subsidize the operation of PANRC. (a little under $3 million/year) According to information I received from the Controller, non-cash expenses and bond proceeds must be deducted from the $63 million number that is used in the question.
Serving as your York County Commissioner, I would whole-heartedly support the continuation of county funding for Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitative Center. This center is the epitome of York County people taking care of one another.
•Nixon: County government has an obligation to ensure the health and safety of its residents. Presently, we receive low marks for the care of our senior citizens. With a substantial aging population that is living longer, with ever increasing costs associated with long-term care eating up their retirement savings, it is essential that we care for these folks. We must not abandon those who helped to create our great county by trusting their final years to the whims of corporations whose only interest is profitability.
We hear little about solutions other than the potential sale of Pleasant Acres — one of the best-run centers of its kind in the state. A hasty, one-time fix would be irresponsible and reckless to our most vulnerable seniors. I would like to work together and find ways to turn around our county home.
One potential option is a public/private partnership, wedding the efficiencies, innovations and "tech savvy" of the private sector with the accountability and people-first interests of county government.
•Hull: As county commissioner this issue has been on the table for years and I would start working on it Day 1 in office. Something has to change and new ideas need to be looked into.
•Hoke: Since elected commissioner I have found that the Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has been a very popular issue. People continually stop me on the streets, in stores, at church, or send me letters expressing their positive experiences and satisfaction with the county nursing home. They thank me for continued support and allocating funds for a safe, clean, and quality facility for their family and friends. I realize the costs to own the county nursing home each year is significant and we are not mandated to provide these services. However, I believe we are starting to turn the corner by making strides to reduce future financial commitments. I am proud of our employees and the many volunteers who spend countless hours serving the needs of our residents. After weighing the cost of operation to the benefits provided to our residents and entire community, I support the county nursing home.
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.