DANVILLE — Officials with Provena Life Connections are proposing to manage the county-owned Vermilion Manor Nursing Home and plan to pitch the idea to the Vermilion County Board next week.
Provena officials will make a presentation at Tuesday night's meeting that will explain the management services the organization could offer the county. The county would pay Provena Life Connections to manage the nursing home, according to Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon.
He said there would be a management contract between Provena Life Connections and the county that would make the top four employees at the nursing home — the administrator, assistant administrator, director of nursing and top finance person — employees of the management company; the rest of the employees would still be county workers, and the county would still own the nursing home.
McMahon said the board will not take any action on the issue Tuesday night. He said the proposal will go to the county board's nursing home committee first and would have to work its way through that committee and the finance committee and back to the full board for final approval.
The county board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the county board chambers on the second floor of the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville.
McMahon said officials with Provena Life Connections, a long-term care organization that's part of the larger organization now known as Presence Health, has been evaluating Vermilion Manor's operation in recent months. McMahon said Provena Life Connections operates about 19 nursing homes but has never taken over management of a county-run facility.
McMahon said a positive part of this proposal from Provena Life Connections is that it's part of Presence Health, the same larger organization of which Provena United Samaritans Medical Center is a part.
"It's a perfect tie-in for us," he said, adding that an organization that specializes in nursing homes and other long-term care services would be equipped to handle the ever-changing government regulations affecting nursing homes and the uncertainties surrounding the government-supplied Medicaid funding the facility relies on so heavily.
For many years, the county board has debated the future of the county-owned nursing home as it has struggled financially. But in the last few years, the facility had been doing better, even repaying a loan to the county's general fund. Several years ago, the county had to funnel more than half a million dollars into the facility to keep it afloat financially.
But last year, the state's fiscal problems derailed the nursing home's comeback when late state Medicaid payments, a significant chunk of the facility's revenue, put Vermilion Manor in a serious cash crunch, even jeopardizing the facility's payroll.
Since then, county officials have suggested other alternatives to total county control of the facility, including hiring an outside entity to manage the facility. Historically, a facility administrator and assistant administrator have run the facility day-to-day with oversight from county administrators, the county board's nursing home committee and the county board.
McMahon said in an outside management firm arrangement, the people in the top management positions when the firm takes over usually remain, but the management firm has the hiring and firing power over those top positions. McMahon said that currently, Assistant Director Tracy McCray is running Vermilion Manor on a day-to-day basis. He would not comment any further on the status of Administrator Joan Darr, who has been in that position since 2006.
McMahon also said that he has fielded inquiries recently from two entities that have expressed interest in buying the nursing home. He would not disclose the identity of the organizations but said Provena Life Connections is not one of them, and the inquiries were not solicited by the county.
According to McMahon, a sale of the facility would not be possible without voters approving it in a referendum. He said Vermilion County is not a home-rule county and would have to ask voters for authority. Bill Donahue, attorney for the county, said according to legal research the county has done, the way the county's nursing home was created would require voter approval in a referendum before a sale could even be considered.