Guest Commentary | Selling county nursing home is only realistic option

Guest Commentary | Selling county nursing home is only realistic option

By STEVE BECKETT, GREG KNOTT, BRENDAN McGINTY, ALAN NUDO, JON SCHROEDER and BARB WYSOCKI

Question: What is at risk if the Champaign County Board closes the nursing home?

Answer: 243 licensed Medicaid beds — about 33 percent of the entire availability in the county.

After years of failing to address the finances and quality care problems of the Champaign County Nursing Home (CCHN), its fate comes down to one viable solution. After a request for proposal was sent out by the largest commercial real estate firm in the United States, we have just one official response. Extended Care Clinical, LLC/Altitude Health Services, Inc. (ECC/AHS) has made an offer to buy CCNH.

It is a clean full price offer with no financial contingency. The county's bipartisan evaluation review committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the offer and forward it to the county board.

As a former member of the CCNH advisory committee, a member of the evaluation review committee and a co-signer of this letter, Alan Nudo commented that the three nursing homes the committee visited were clean, friendly and offered innovative amenities to their residents. ECC/AHS has origins as a family-owned and operated business for mor than 40 years. It now owns nursing home facilities throughout the United States, including 18 in the Chicagoland and Indiana areas.

The financial failure of CCNH is well-known; its annual cash shortfalls — in excess of $1 million for the past 12 years — are well-documented. The choices are obvious:

1: Sell the nursing home to a viable operator.

2: Close the nursing home before default proceedings to the creditors are instituted and severe cutbacks to personnel and services in other county departments are necessary.

What if ...

— Champaign County sold the nursing home to ECC/AHS, and

— Champaign County frees up millions of dollars previously funneled into subsidizing the operation of the nursing home, of which

— some of these monies would be transferred into many social service opportunities like mental health and drug addiction programs, jail recidivism reduction programs or alternative jail incarceration programs to benefit families and individuals.

There are no other realistic options on the table. Opponents to the sale have continually said they are "working" on a solution, but so far, we've not heard their alternative. Will it come before or after the ambulances are lined up at the front door to transfer the last residents to another facility?

We, the co-signers of this letter, worked together on the county board on tough issues like this one. We learned that compromise is key to difficult problems, and compromise should be possible in this case.

The best part is the hidden value contained therein — Champaign County will continue to offer 243 Medicaid-licensed beds and be able to support critical social services that plague citizens — drug addiction, mental health and retraining programs in our jail. We urge the county board to work together to find the hidden value of this opportunity. The time is short to find common ground to benefit more citizens of the county. Please work together.

Steve Beckett, Democrat; Greg Knott, Republican; Brendan McGinty, Democrat; Alan Nudo, Republican; Jon Schroeder, Republican; and Barb Wysocki, Democrat.