News Local/State

Champaign County Board Reviews Problems & Options For Nursing Home

The Champaign County Board

The Champaign County Board, meeting Tuesday night for a study session on the county Nursing Home. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

At a study session Tuesday night, the Champaign County Board reviewed the problems and potential solutions concerning the financially troubled county nursing home. But one potential solution appears to be off the table.

Under a proposal from consultant Ron Aldrich, a former CEO at Urbana’s old Mercy Hospital (predecessor to today’s Presence Covenant Medical Center), Champaign County would team up with local hospitals and medical clinics to convert the nursing home into a private non-profit entity.

The arrangement, which the nursing home’s advisory board showed interest in earlier this year, was seen as a way to allow Champaign County to continue to play a role in the nursing home’s operation, and to avoid selling the facility to a for-profit entity.

County Administrator Rick Snider says he discussed the idea with local healthcare executives, but found they were not ready to make the commitment.

“These healthcare institutions want us to be successful with the nursing home,” said Snider. “They’re going to work with us to help us with issues like census, help us with issues like quality assurance. But no one’s ready to make a leap into a new business model.”

Champaign County is pursuing two other options for the nursing home, which is struggling with a declining census, and millions of dollars in mounting debts owed to its vendors and to the county government. The newly hired management firm SAK is looking at ways to save money and increase revenues.

SAK specializes in turning around troubled nursing homes. Company president and founder Susanne Koenig told county board members by phone at Tuesday night's study session that the Champaign County Nursing Home’s strengths include a beautiful facility and a dedicated caregiver staff.

“Going forward, we could produce a budget that is workable, that will make money", said Koenig. "I just can’t change your history, that’s all.”  

By “history”, Koenig meant the recent buildup of nearly $4 million in debt that the Champaign County Nursing Home owes to its vendors, and also to the county. Koenig says her firm is working on ways to reduce the nursing home’s expenses, and increase its revenues.

Champaign County officials are hoping for quick results, as they may have to decide in a few months whether to sell the facility to a private operator.

After voters last spring gave them permission to explore a possible sale, the county board hired the firm of  Marcus and Millichap, which is launching a search for a potential buyer for the nursing home. A representative discussed the firm's work at the county board study session.

In the latest figures released by Snider at Tuesday night’s county board study session, the census at the Champaign County Nursing home had declined again, from 136 two weeks ago to 129 on Tuesday.

In addition, Champaign County Auditor John Farney told county board members that the money owed by the nursing home to the county for emergency loans had risen to $1,685,417, while the amount owed to vendors is now at $2,267,112.

The nursing home is expected to need another $500,000 emergency loan from the county in the fall. And Snider says providing that loan may require laying off an estimated 24 to 30 county employees in areas other than the nursing home, in order to keep next year's budget balanced. Snider says Champaign County government will likely have to cut its staffing levels, because its budget for commodities and services is already "scraped to the bone".

Snider says decisions on layoffs would be made during the county budget process in the fall.

UPDATE: This article was updated on 7/26/17 - JM.