Citizens Nursing Home Sale – Major Questions Answered
There has been a lot of heated discussion about the county’s sale of the Citizens Care nursing home formerly operated by the Frederick County government. I am writing this column to cut through the rhetoric and talk about the facts.
The most common question I get about the sale of Citizens Care to a professional nursing home care provider is a simple one…why?
The answer is also simple: Government does a poor job in the nursing home business.
Nearly every other county in Maryland realized long ago that government-run nursing homes just don’t work very well.
We studied this closely. The nursing home was losing millions of dollars every year. We looked at many alternatives, and we especially did not want to harm anyone already in the nursing home.
The decision to transition Frederick County’s nursing home to private, professional operation was about doing what works best for everyone. We actually came up with a fair solution and I wanted to share those facts with you.
Q. How much money was Frederick County losing while running the Citizens Care nursing home?
• The nursing home lost $52 million over the past 10 years;
• The nursing home hadn’t been financially self-sustaining for decades;
• There was no way the county could operate without losing between $2 million and $4 million per year; and
• To pay for these losses, the county would have to raise property taxes or cut services elsewhere.
Q. What protections were put in place for nursing home patients?
Guaranteeing quality care and service for nursing home patients was critical throughout the process. Requirements for the sale included strong patient protections such as:
• Guaranteeing high-quality care by reviewing the new provider’s patient ratings;
• Patients could not be forced to transfer out of their nursing home; and
• Patients could not lose their place in the nursing home
Q. What about employees and caregivers?
Protecting the jobs and benefits of the hardworking nursing home staff was also a top priority. Under the terms of the sale:
• No employee could lose their job in the transition;
• Employee pay could not be cut; and
• Health care benefits had to be comparable to those provided by the county government.
Q. Was the nursing home sold to the highest bidder?
No. Six different companies submitted bids. However, the company with the highest bid did not have the high patient ratings demanded by the county. The sale was awarded to the 2nd highest bidder which had a higher patient rating, in order to ensure patients received the quality care they deserve.
This was not about money. The county could have made more money by selling to the highest bidder if we were willing to make patients and employees suffer. Instead, we did the right thing and protected everyone, and that deal even worked for taxpayers.
Q. What happens to the money that is saved?
• The existing debt of the nursing home will be paid off, so taxpayers did not lose out;
• More money available for Department of Aging programs to support aging in place with dignity; and
• Lower property taxes help seniors stay in their homes.
Patients are protected. Employees were not harmed. Taxpayers did not get stuck with the bill.
I promised to reform county government and reduce spending. I have done just that. Those real results have protected critical services, allowed us to expand services to seniors and initiate a Senior Tax Credit so Frederick County seniors can enjoy the life they have worked hard to earn.
Making Senior Services a Priority
Under the leadership of County Commissioners Paul Smith, Billy Shreve, Kirby Delauter and me, responsible fiscal management means there will be additional funds available for Department of Aging programs to support aging in place with dignity.
Others just talk about fixing government; I rolled up my sleeves and made tough decisions on the county budget. The money we save can be redirected to pay for services like Meals on Wheels and in-home aid. The result is less waste, more services and lower taxes.
Senior Tax Credit is Helping Older Residents
We strongly believe no senior should be forced to sell their home because of high property taxes.
To provide relief for Frederick seniors and help people keep their homes, we championed the Senior Tax Credit to lower property taxes. So far, 765 senior property owners have saved $223,717 on their property taxes.
The Citizens Care nursing home solution:
• Patients protected;
• Employees protected;
• Taxpayer costs reduced;
• Debt paid off; and
• Property tax increases averted