News Local/State

Champaign County Board Votes To Seek Broker To Facilitate Sale Of Nursing Home

Champaign County Nursing Home

Champaign County Nursing Home Scott Cameron/Illinois Public Media

The Champaign County Board took a step Tuesday night towards a possible sale of the county nursing home, by voting to authorize their county administrator to seek a broker to facilitate the sale.

County Board members  in a commitee-of-the-whole meeting as the Finance Committee voted 15 to 5 to authorize the issuing of a “Request for Information” or RFI, advertising for a broker to facilitate the sale or transfer of the financially strapped nursing home to a private owner.

County Administrator Rick Snider says he hopes to have a broker hired by summer, to help find a buyer for the nursing home by next spring.  But he says the nursing home’s finances are so shaky that the county may have to borrow to keep it open until a new owner can take over.

 “Normally you don’t want to issue debt to cover operating expenses,” said Snider. “But I think this would be a special case, in that we would have a known endpoint, or approximate known endpoint. And what the intent would be, of course, to make sure that we have a smooth transition of the home from county operations to another operator.” 

Snider spoke in reaction to Champaign County Auditor John Farney's statement to the county board Tuesday night that the nursing home's finances could reach a crisis point by September.

"I think from what I've seen in the cash-flow projections, when we get to September, we will be in crisis mode," said Farney. "September is a three-payroll month, three payrolls for the General Corporate Fund, three payrolls for the nursing home. We need to have a clear path by September."

The RFI for a broker to sell the nursing home includes language telling the prospective broker to be ready to consider a range of types of buyers, including a not-for-profit entity or a consortium. Snider says that’s to allow the possibility of turning the county nursing home over to a local non-for-profit entity with possible input from the county and local healthcare organizations.

The idea comes from Ron Aldridge, a consultant that Champaign County hired last year to explore options for the nursing home. Snider says he’s setting up informal meetings in the next few weeks with unnamed healthcare organizations in the community, to find out if they might be interested in taking on such a project.

Meanwhile, the proposal to seek a broker for the nursing home received five “no” votes Tuesday night, all from Democrats, including Josh Hartke.

Hartke favors keeping the nursing home in county hands, even after voters in April rejected a property tax hike to support the facility, and authorized the County Board to consider a possible sale.

Hartke says the nursing home’s latest financial problems are due to the state’s tardiness in sending Medicaid payments, and especially in processing Medicaid applications for nursing home residents.

 “We’re all dependent on the state of Illinois, and it’s failing to do its job,” said Hartke. “And this isn’t really even just about passing a budget. This is just about an absolute failure of a branch of the executive to do its job. And that’s move these applications through.”

Hartke says the county could go to court to force the state to process Medicaid applications more quickly. But Snider says that even if that were done, he doesn’t see a path back to financial stability for the nursing home. He says the ten-year-old nursing home building is in need of upgrades and maintenance, and that the nursing home’s fund balance is far from stable.

In addition to approving a search for a broker, Champaign County Board members voted unanimously to authorize Snider to find someone to operate the county nursing home in the short term. Management Performance Associates, the St. Louis-based firm that’s been overseeing management of the nursing home for the past several years, is stepping away from that duty after its current contract with Champaign County expires June 30th.

The County Board voted to allow Snider to issue a “Request For Performance” to find a firm or individuals to step in to run the nursing home on a month-to-month basis.

Snider told the county board that they’ll also be seeking a replacement for nursing home administrator Karen L. Noffke. Snider says Noffke has decided to move on after June 30th, although county officials were hoping she would remain at the post, due to her familiarity with the job.