County Nursing Home Money Troubles To Continue Into New Year
2017 was the year that Champaign County voters did not come to the aid of the county nursing home. Voters last April rejected a tax increase to help pay for the facility, and gave the county board permission to consider selling it. But the battle over the nursing home’s future continues.
Scott Tapley led the fight for the sell-the-nursing-home referendum. On election night, April 4, the former Champaign County Board member said he believes the financially strapped county nursing home would be better off under private ownership.
“This is not Chicken Little”, said Tapley of the nursing home’s financial problems. “This is a real crisis. And they really need to do something. And the voters have spoke, and the something they want done is to sell it.”
But while the Champaign County Board voted to hire a firm to act as a broker for a possible sale of the nursing home, Democrats to date have blocked the issuing of a formal Request For Proposals, or RFP, from potential buyers.
County Board member Josh Hartke (D-Champaign) argued in November that issuing the RFP would actually hurt the nursing home by creating public uncertainty about its future.
“It again sends a signal to the community that it’s for sale and that kills our ability to up headcount and keep good employees”, said Hartke.
Hartke and other Democrats have argued that despite the outcome of referendum votes in April, the majority of voters in their county board districts supported county ownership of the nursing home. They want to give a new management firm that was hired this year more time to improve the nursing home’s finances.
Champaign County officials say a new management company, SAK, was hired this year to improve the nursing home’s finances. But officials with SAK have said that despite strengths in other areas, the county nursing home is hampered by its debts. The facility owes roughly $5 million to the county and to vendors.
And one of the nursing home’s former vendors has sued the county over unpaid bills. The News-Gazette reports that Health Care Services Group went to court earlier in December, seeking about $235,000 in payment from the county.