The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

August 3, 2013

New owners of nursing home mum on staff cuts

BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — The new owners of the former Vermilion Manor Nursing Home are saying little about immediate job cuts at the facility.

Premier Healthcare Management officially took over the reins of longtime county-owned nursing home Vermilion Manor on Thursday, changing the well-known name to Garden View. On the same day, however, the transition was marred by word of larger-than-expected job cuts at the nursing home.

County officials confirmed Thursday that 39 of the approximately 115 employees were not retained as a result of the purchase by the private company.

Premier Healthcare has remained mum on the issue since Thursday. Matt Cohen, director of business development at Premier Healthcare Management, issued a one-sentence statement Friday morning via email.

“At this time we have no comment on anything related to the transfer/sale of Vermilion Manor,” the message said.

Premier Healthcare owner Barak Baever could not be reached for comment on Friday. He did not keep a morning interview scheduled through Cohen and a message left on Baever’s voicemail was not returned.

Cohen, aside from declining comment on the sale, indicated the company’s “focus at this time is entirely on the well-being of our residents and ensuring that all of their needs are met.”

The day of the transfer, Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said county officials were shocked by the number of employees who lost their jobs, adding that he and other officials involved in the negotiations with Premier Healthcare believed only 10-15 workers would be unemployed.

Despite the difference in figures, Weinard said Friday he had not been contacted by any company officials about the higher number of employees who lost jobs as a result of the sale.

While there were employee cuts, the new nursing home owners are preparing to maintain some other established areas of the nursing home, including treatment of veterans from the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.

Weinard confirmed Friday the county did have an agreement with the VA to treat veterans at Garden View. He was unaware of the status of that agreement, given the new private ownership.

Hilary Edgerly, assistant chief of social work service at the VA, said veterans are not being treated there currently only because the new ownership is still in the process of registering as a vendor. She said Premier owners have indicated an interest in continuing the agreement.

Nursing homes are used by the VA for a variety of reasons, including specific treatment as well as veteran preference, according to Edgerly. In some cases, using a nursing home allows the veteran to be closer to family.

The number of veterans treated at the former Vermilion Manor varied from month to month, ranging from zero to as many as seven.

Edgerly said once Garden View is registered as a vendor, negotiations will begin to hash out a new agreement with the VA.

The Vermilion County Board met in a special meeting in late June to discuss and vote on selling the county-owned nursing home. The vote was almost unanimous.

Overall, the deal to purchase the nursing home is $5.5 million. Of that, $3.5 million of the payment is the price for the nursing home, while the remaining $2 million is money Premier Healthcare already has indicated it will put toward capital improvements to the nursing home, which has been open since the early 1970s.

Premier Healthcare has five facilities in Illinois, including one in Champaign County.