NAZARETH, Pa. - Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure says new nursing home rules proposed by the Wolf administration threaten the future of Gracedale Nursing Home.

"We need to be there for these people," said McClure. "They have nowhere to go. People with dementia. People with Alzheimer's whose only way to pay their bills is Medicaid. No one else will take them."

That's why McClure insists on keeping Gracedale owned and operated by the county, instead of by a for-profit company.

But new nursing home regulations proposed by the state could make that an issue.

The Wolf administration wants to increase direct care hours per resident per day from 2.7 to 4.1 by the end of next year.

"Even though we all want to have this 4.1 PPD, let's be clear about something, we're taking very good care of them right now between 2.8 and 3.0 PPD," said McClure.

Thursday, the Upper Nazareth Township Council unanimously passed a resolution urging the state to consider potential consequences of the plan.

The latest count shows Gracedale has 512 residents and 623 employees. The county says in order to achieve the proposed staffing goals, it needs more time and money.

"We think we probably need about five years to get to the 4.1 and we probably need about $12-to-$15 million extra from the state legislature to fund the extra staffing," said McClure.

McClure says he's been in contact with legislators about the potential change, which the Pennsylvania Health Care Association called "out of touch."

"We want that," McClure said about the extra one-on-one time with residents. "That's our goal, but we can't do it as quickly as the regulation wants us to. It's our moral obligation to care for these folks as well as we possibly can and we're going to live up to that."

Updating the state's nearly 25-year-old nursing home regulations has been a priority of the Pennsylvania Department of Health since before the pandemic.

A public comment period is ongoing.

The state's acting health secretary says the department is looking at various funding options to help facilities make these changes possible.

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