Berks commissioners look at options for Berks Heim

Commissioner Leinbach: 'We don't want to sell.'

Berks commissioners look at options...

READING, Pa. - The Berks County commissioners continue to look at options for Berks Heim, the county-owned nursing home in Bern Township.

Financial projections anticipate a $1.5 million deficit by 2020 and an $8 million deficit in 10 years due, in large part, to flat or declining Medicaid rates from the state.

At Thursday's commissioners meeting, Commissioner Mark C. Scott said there are three options for Berks Heim: 1) keeping it as a county-owned facility, 2) selling it to a for-profit organization, including safeguards within the sales agreement, and 3) turning the facility into a nonprofit nursing home.

Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach said he has heard people say the commissioners want to sell Berks Heim.

"No, we don't want to sell," he said, "Just because we're conservative fiscally doesn't mean that we're not going to look at all the options."

Scott said that, historically, the commissioners have looked at all the options when making a decision and referred to the decision to build a new facility for Berks Heim in the 1990s with a more efficient layout and fewer beds based on anticipated future needs rather than renovate the existing facility. He said if they hadn't made that decision, the county would be looking at enormous losses.

Several nurses, a representative from Berks Heim's volunteer service board, and individuals with parents living at Berks Heim spoke to the commissioners about the quality care currently being provided to residents of the facility, and they expressed their concerns that a privatized nursing home would not give the same level of service.

Robin Miller Shilling, whose mother is a resident of Berks Heim, said her parents lived and worked in Berks County for 70 years, and when her father died 21 years ago, she promised him that she would take care of her mom.

"She's been in the memory-care unit at Berks Heim for the about 18 months," Shilling said. "There is nothing in the county that compares to the care that she gets there."

"I love my job, and the residents are part of our families," said Maryellen Nussbeutel, a nurse at Berks Heim for 23 years. "We hold their hands when they pass away. We spend the last minutes of their life with them. Their care is our top concern."

Nussbeutel shared that staff turnover is nearly non-existent.

"If there's one indicator of quality in a nursing home, it's turnover," she told the commissioners.

In other business, Dale Derr, the director of Berks County Veterans Affairs, nominated four veterans for induction into the 2017 Berks County Military Hall of Fame: John Dunston, a Vietnam War veteran from West Lawn; Merlin Oswald, a deceased World War II veteran who resided in Lyons Station; Barry Seidel, a Vietnam War vet from Oley; and Raymond Shugar, a deceased Korean War veteran.

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