Cumberland Times-News

January 5, 2013

In nursing home sale, Frederick would follow Allegany’s lead

Bethany Rodgers
The Frederick News-Post

— FREDERICK (AP) — Potential privatization of county-owned nursing and assisted-living centers has raised questions about the future of care for Frederick County seniors.

Some argue that selling Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living would weaken the safety net for local low-income seniors. But others say passing the centers to private ownership would not have a drastic impact on service levels. Most other counties have already moved in this direction, they say.

In 2009, Allegany County sold its money-losing nursing home for about $8 million.

“The nursing home was kind of bleeding our general fund,” said Jason Bennett, Allegany County’s finance director.

Allegany County in recent years did not aim to subsidize patients at its nursing home, Bennett said. Still, the facility was unable to support itself, with deficits totaling almost $780,000 in fiscal 2007 and more than $500,000 in fiscal 2008.

No residents were displaced during the privatization of what is now called Allegany Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. In addition, the purchase agreement had the buyer retain the former county employees, Bennett said.

The cost of running a nursing home is also at the heart of the privatization talks in Frederick County, with both Citizens and Montevue buoyed by millions of dollars in county subsidies.

Montevue serves the indigent and has never been expected to turn a profit. Ideally, however, Citizens would generate enough revenue to offset Montevue’s costs. In reality, neither facility breaks even.

Frederick County officials are starting to explore a sale or leasing arrangement for Citizens and Montevue. They have hired a real estate broker and plan to start receiving proposals from private entities in mid-January, said Lori Depies, Frederick County manager.

Interested applicants will have to share their plans for accommodating the 60 residents who need county support to stay at Montevue, Depies said. A well-thought-out proposal will score points with county officials, she said. In addition, by state regulation, a new operator could not throw out those residents simply because they can’t afford to pay. Over time, the number of residents who need financial help might decrease, as people move to Citizens or find other homes.