Buyer says most workers will have option to keep jobs
HUDSON–The county Board of Supervisors voted last week to sell the Pine Haven nursing home in Philmont to Premier Health Care Management of Great Neck on Long Island. The company, one of two bidders, offered $6.5 million for the 120-bed facility.
Although the amount was debated, Pine Haven was operating at a loss and recently the number of residents had declined. Supervisor Pat Grattan (R-Kinderhook), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said last year that Pine Haven was costing the county over $1.3 million in operating expenses and almost as much for pension payments.
Reached this week by phone Premier CEO Bruce Peckman said his company was “thrilled” to have been chosen, but he said Monday, March 16, that he had not yet seen the contract from the county completing the deal.
Once the agreement is signed, Mr. Peckman said it would be sent to the state Department of Health in Albany along with an application for a certificate of need, a state authorization that the home can operate under the new owner. He said he did not know how long that process would take.
But changes are likely to come sooner rather than later to Pine Haven, Mr. Peckman said. “Once we sign the agreement with the county we would help the county manage” the facility, he said.
Claverack Town Supervisor Clifford Weigelt agreed this week that Premier would participate in managing Pine Haven before all aspects of the sale are complete.
Mr. Weigelt was among the handful of supervisors voting against the motion to sell Pine Haven. He said this week that county planning for Pine Haven’s future had started late. “We could have used another year,” he said. He anticipates it will take from 8 to 10 months to complete all aspects of the transfer to Premier.
Late last year Columbia Memorial Hospital announced that it would sell its Kaaterskill Care Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility in Catskill to Premier. Mr. Peckman said his firm is currently heading the management of the Kaaterskill facility for the hospital. The company also owns the Timberlyn Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center in Great Barrington, MA, and Mr. Peckman said this week that his company was buying yet another facility “in the area,” but he declined to name it, saying his firm had not signed a contract for that site either.
The county will sell the Pine Haven Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility on Route 217 to Premier along with roughly 50 acres. The county operates a firefighter training tower near the nursing home and Mr. Weigelt said the tower would be removed and a new one constructed elsewhere in the county, possibly near the transfer station in Greenport, though that decision has not been made.
One of the most vocal opponents of the sale was Ghent resident Albert Wassenhove, who made a last ditch effort last week to convince the supervisors to postpone for 30 days in order to have what he described as “full disclosure” by both the county and Premier. “The general public knows nothing about the deal,” said Mr. Wassenhove this week.
Over the last few years as the county planned to build a new nursing home nearby to replace Pine Haven, Mr. Wassenhove has led a group that anticipated making the existing nursing home a service center for veterans. Those plans will not be realized at the Pine Haven building.
Mr. Peckman said that the property Premier is purchasing from the county would include the site that had been planned for a new Pine Haven facility.
At a public meeting of the Board of Supervisors last month Mr. Peckman said Premier has facilities in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, Florida and New Jersey, and he described his firm as “not a large group” but a “very selective one,” saying that the company purchases “county or not-for-profit nursing homes that were struggling to stay alive.”
Last December when Columbia Memorial Hospital announced that it was selling its Kaaterskill Care Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility in Catskill to Premier, the hospital said its representatives had visited Premier facilities prior to the sale and conducted an “extensive review” that led to the selection of Premier as the buyer. The hospital also said that Premier retained “well over 90%” of the staff at other facilities it had purchased.
Pine Haven was built in the 1970s and Mr. Peckman said last month that “every facility we purchase tends to be an old facility,” adding that the company plans usually involve “completely” renovating the facility. An associate of Mr. Peckman said at the board meeting last month that the company expected to spend between $2 million and $2.5 million over 2 or 3 years to upgrade Pine Haven.
Mr. Peckman also said that cutting jobs for local people would “demoralize” staff and interfere with the effort to upgrade the nursing home.
Pine Haven had about 200 full- and part-time employees as of last summer.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Grattan could not be reached for comment prior to press deadline.