A new contract

A new contract

The county nursing home, still a source of angst, is headed in the right direction.

Time was when Champaign County Nursing Home was a major source of controversy and financial trouble.

But times have changed for the better. The county board recently approved by an overwhelming 17-2 margin a three-year contract for a Chesterfield, Mo., company to continue to manage the facility. Under the arrangement, MPA will be paid nearly $300,000 to oversee operations. In addition, county taxpayers will be required to pay the nursing home administrator's salary and benefits of more than $122,000 a year.

Not everyone is happy with MPA. Board member Pattsi Petrie expressed the opinion that the nursing home could be run in a more efficient and economical way, and she's probably right. Nothing is so good that it can't be improved.

But most board members expressed the view that, compared to where it was when MPA took over in 2007, the nursing home is doing well.

Board member Josh Hartke was correct when he said that MPA has done an "excellent job" by turning a big money-loser into an entity that is paying its own way.

For those who remember the regular cash infusions board members reluctantly made into nursing home operations just a few years ago, that's a major improvement.

Although still enjoying popular support, the county-operated nursing home is a relic of an earlier era. If one didn't already exist in Champaign County, it's hard to imagine anyone being so foolish as to recommend starting one from scratch.

Not only is operating a nursing home not a core county government function, like maintaining the judicial system or overseeing the roads in its jurisdiction, it's not even a real government function. The private sector provides many degrees of care — everything from assisted living to intense nursing home care — for those who need it.

Nonetheless, if Champaign County is to be stuck with this albatross, it has to provide quality care and pay its bills. Right now it seems to be doing both. Under the circumstances, that's the best anyone can expect.

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