Take Action to Keep Champaign County from Losing Another Nursing Home!

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University Rehabilitation Center, the former county nursing home. Photo courtesy of Karen Medina

Champaign County residents are about to lose another nursing home. But we can stop this from happening, if we work together!

The Rothners, who are the current owners of the former Champaign County Nursing Home, which they bought in 2018, now want permission from the Champaign County Board to sell the nursing home and have it become something other than a nursing home.

This would mean that the Champaign County community would lose another approximately 220 skilled-nursing facility beds.

In 2018, the Champaign County Board made a decision to sell the Champaign County Nursing Home, which had been owned and operated by the county for decades. The board sold the nursing home to the Rothner family company.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) vigorously opposed the sale of the nursing home because we knew that a sale to a for-profit company would result in diminished quality of care, due to changes in staffing levels that would inevitably follow from the change in ownership, and the change in business models from a public non-profit nursing home to a private for-profit nursing home.

Once the Rothners were identified as the proposed buyers of the County Nursing Home, CCHCC again vigorously fought against the sale specifically to the Rothners, after doing extensive research on quality-of-care problems at Rothner-owned nursing homes. The sale went through anyway.

In order to obtain some protections for county residents, our community advocated for, and won, some specific covenants that had to be included as part of the sale. One of the covenants that the Rothners agreed to was a commitment to keep operating the facility as a 220-bed long-term care facility for skilled nursing care or assisted living until 2028.

Now, after only operating the former county nursing home for less than four years, the Rothners want out, and are not planning to sell the nursing home to another nursing-home operator. (The covenants don’t mean anything unless the county board enforces them.)

Instead, the Rothners want to sell the former county nursing home to a non-nursing-home entity. The Rothners are asking the county board for permission to sell the nursing home to an entity that would operate the facility as a drug and alcohol treatment center.

While many of us support the creation of more resources for substance abuse treatment in our community, that should not happen at the expense of rehab and long-term care facilities, especially as we have an increasing aging population, of which many will need care at a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF, also known as a nursing home) at some point in their lives, whether for post-hospitalization rehab services or long-term care.

The Rothners are already responsible for the loss of many nursing home facilities and beds in our community. Once the Rothners had entrée into the Champaign County community, via the purchase of the county nursing home, they proceeded to purchase, and then shut down, two other nursing homes in our community: Helia Healthcare (a 118-bed facility) on Mattis Avenue, and Heartland Healthcare (a 102-bed facility) on Springfield Avenue, both in Champaign. In addition, the Rothners also purchased The Inman in downtown Champaign, which was operated as an assisted-living facility, until they recently sold it to Royse & Brinkmeyer, who will no longer operate it as an assisted-living facility for seniors.

If the Rothner’s request to sell the former county nursing home is approved, our community will have lost approximately 440 SNF beds as a result of the Rothner’s “property-flipping” decisions (not including the assisted living units at The Inman).

The Rothners claim that Champaign County has “excess beds” and that the occupancy rate at the Rothner’s facility is low, and therefore the sale and closure of the nursing home will not hurt our community. Well, despite these “excess beds,” too many Champaign County residents have been sent to SNFs outside of the county because, for one reason or another, they were not able to be admitted to SNFs, including the Rothner’s facility, in our county. This is a tremendous hardship for these patients and their families and friends. It is not always clear why Champaign County patients are unable to be admitted to our community nursing homes. In addition, when one looks at the data trends, they show that the worse the ratings are for a particular nursing home, the lower their census becomes. In other words, nursing homes that have problems with quality of care tend to have fewer patients that get sent to them, and therefore have lower occupancy, making it appear as if there are “excess” beds.

The answer is not to make the nursing home go away, but to work to improve the quality of care provided.

[Editors’ note: At  its October 10 meeting, the Champaign County Board unanimously decided to refuse permission to the Rothners to sell University Rehab—the current name of the former county nursing home—to an unnamed drug treatment facility in breach of its original purchase agreement with the county to maintain it as a nursing home until  2028.]

This article has been adapted from from a call to action on the CCHCC website.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) believes that health care is a basic human right, and is dedicated to the mission of working for quality affordable health care for all, and for environmental health and justice. CCHCC carries out its mission through direct service, consumer education, advocacy, and community organizing.

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