EDITORIAL: A message for new owners of Pleasant Acres — we'll be watching

York Dispatch
  • The York County Commissioners recently voted 2-1 to sell the Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
  • Premier Healthcare Management will buy the facility for $30.8 million.
  • Premier vows patient care will not suffer and that 95 percent of employees will likely be retained.

They’re saying all the right things.

Talk, however, is cheap.

Actions are much more highly valued.

That’s why we have one small message for the folks at Premier Healthcare Management — we’ll be watching their actions closely over the months and years to come.

We’ll be watching to see if the new for-profit owners live up to the lofty promises made during an introductory news conference after the York County commissioners voted 2-1 last week in favor of selling the county-owned Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to Premier for $30.8 million. The change in ownership is expected to take place in July.

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)

Premier’s CEO, Lisa Sofia, assured everyone that the level of care that residents currently receive will not change under the new ownership.

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

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

She also expects that 95 percent of the current staff will be maintained.

She even said the Pleasant Acres facility will keep its familiar name.

Those words are all encouraging.

Still, it’s easy to understand why folks who have loved ones staying at Pleasant Acres would be worried. It’s also easy to understand why the employees at Pleasant Acres would be scared. Those are natural reactions.

When you learn that a for-profit company is taking over a county-owned nursing facility, some frightening thoughts are bound to creep into your mind.

The biggest concern is that patient care will suffer in order to improve the bottom line.

Results mixed for other counties that sold nursing homes

The next biggest concern is that employees will see their pay and benefits slashed and their working conditions deteriorate badly.

The 375-bed facility in Springettsbury Township has been subsidized by the county to the tune of about $75 million over the last 10 years. The operating deficit was expected to grow to $11 million this year, and the home will need $10 million in capital improvements in the next three years.

Given that bleak outlook, there’s no question something needed to be done to stop the financial bleeding.

The commissioners decided that selling the home to Premier was the most reasonable alternative, with Republicans Chris Reilly and Susan Byrnes voting in favor of the sale and Democrat Doug Hoke voting against it.

So, the question immediately comes to mind: How can Premier pay more than $30 million for an aging facility built in 1931 that is losing money by the millions and still make a profit?

York County Commissioners vote to sell Pleasant Acres

Sofia said Premier, based out of Long Island and Philadelphia, can accomplish that goal by bringing in its team of professionals, while using economies of scale and negotiating from a position of strength. Premier owns 23 nursing homes in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Florida.

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

Nevertheless, it’s easy to understand why employees would be on edge. Many of those employees showed their lack of confidence in for-profit ownership when a Right-to-Know request by The York Dispatch found that 22 Pleasant Acres employees — some who had worked there for decades — have resigned or retired since the county announced it was exploring a possible sale in late January. Three more have given notice of intent to retire during the next few months.

Sofia countered that fear of the unknown likely prompted those departures and she said she’s found that many will return once they see a smooth transition.

Maybe Sofia is right. Maybe all this hysteria is simple fear of the unknown.

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, the folks at Premier should remember one important thing: We’ll be watching.