Nursing home sale committee endorses offer from Evanston firms

Nursing home sale committee endorses offer from Evanston firms

URBANA — The joint offer from two Evanston-based firms to buy the Champaign County Nursing Home got an endorsement Monday night from a special evaluation committee and was forwarded to the Champaign County Board.

The vote was one more step toward the potential sale of the nursing home next month, but not a recommendation that the county-owned facility be sold to a private operator. The evaluation review committee, in a 7-2 vote, said the offer from Extended Care Clinical LLC and Altitude Health Services Inc. was viable and met the requirements for a proposal set out by the county board last year.

The two firms — which jointly own and/or operate 18 nursing homes, most of them in the Chicago area — have offered $11 million for the county nursing home in east Urbana.

The offer was the only one the county received in February after issuing a request for proposals.

The next step in the process to sell the nursing home is a May 9 meeting, where representatives of the two companies will take questions from county board members in an open session. Following that step, the county board is scheduled to vote May 24 on whether to sell the home.

Doing so would require 15 affirmative votes from the 22-member board. Advocates for a sale said last week that they had only 13, 10 of which are from the board's GOP bloc.

Voting to forward the offer to the county board Monday nighty were evaluation committee members Jim Goss, Robert King, Claudia Lenhoff, Jim McGuire, Alan Nudo, Lynne Barnes and C. Pius Weibel, who also is chairman of the county board.

Voting against recommending the proposal were Cathy Emanuel, a longtime member of the nursing home advisory board, and Stephanie Fortado, a county board member.

After the meeting, Emanuel said she is not op-posed to selling the nursing home, but said she was uncomfortable with recommending the Extended Care/Altitude offer.

"I thought the response was adequate but not as comprehensive as I expected it to be," she said.

She said she was concerned about the level of services the firms would offer at the Champaign County home, their staffing levels and who would manage the facility.

"They had the amenities in terms of facilities, but they didn't have the amenities in terms of services," she said. "They don't have adult day care. They don't have dental services. They didn't have programs that we have here and which I would like to see continued.

"And it wasn't clear who would manage it. Even though they're coming in as partners, it was sort of left open to who would manage it. You don't really know what you're getting."

Fortado noted that while "the amenities were nice, I was also concerned that they were entirely empty."

But most of the other committee members said they were impressed with the operators after a tour last week of three of its homes in the Chicago area.

"I thought that compared to our nursing home, they were equivalent to or better," Weibel said of the three facilities.

"I came away more impressed. I had been impressed from the get-go. This didn't change my mind either way," Goss said. "It was everything I expected and more."

Nudo, a former county board and nursing home board member, was the most effusive.

"I don't look at this as being only one way out. This is a good way out. This is a good way to preserve 243 beds. And this is a good way for the nursing home to continue, which is my goal," he said. "This is not an emergency catch-all. This is a great and viable candidate who has been in this business for a long time."

If the county board votes next month to sell the financially troubled home and its millions of dollars of debts, county officials say they hope to complete the sale by July 31 and turn over ownership on Aug. 1.