Montgomery County commissioners approve contract sale of Parkhouse

View of the north building at Parkhouse Providence Pointe Sept. 5, 2013. Photo by Gene Walsh / 21st Century Media Staff

NORRISTOWN — The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Thursday unanimously approved an award of a contract for the sale of Parkhouse, Riverview and Montgomery Meadows to Mid-Atlantic Health Care LLC for $39 million.

Following a review of the sale by a nine-member working group made up of county aging and adult services and Parkhouse staff — and presented to the board last week — the commissioners decided to follow the working group’s advice and agreed to sell the facility to Mid-Atlantic, a Maryland-based health care company specializing in nursing home and elderly care.

“We know that today we have a top-quality facility with very caring and capable staff and happy residents. We also know that under the current structure, we lose millions of dollars each year, which has to be subsidized by the county taxpayers,” said commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro. “The short-term need, as I see it, is to protect the interests of our employees, maintain the high quality of care for our residents and also look after the needs of our taxpayers. I believe that this proposal does just that.”

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According to county Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson, the sale of the Royersford complex and its surrounding 200 acres should be completed by the end of the year. A portion of the sale would go toward the $8.4 million in outstanding principal debt in which Parkhouse is mired.

Mid-Atlantic managing partner Dr. Scott Rifkin, during last week’s presentation, assured the commissioners that little would change for county staff and residents because of the transaction.

Rifkin said Mid-Atlantic would keep all existing staff at Parkhouse and maintain the same high level of care residents and their families have come to expect. Adjustments to employee benefits, however, could come at some point, though he was unsure exactly what could change, he said.

On Tuesday, the commissioners visited a Mid-Atlantic branch in Bala Cynwyd to gauge employee and resident reactions to working and living there. All three commissioners Thursday said the feedback was positive.

Initially unsold on the idea of privatization, Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. said that upon further review, he changed his mind and would vote to support the motion.

“We have had so many things in this government that needed our immediate attention because they were broken and they needed to be fixed, due to mismanagement, incompetence or corruption. This was an area that I did not think was a priority because it worked well,” Castor said. “This has been a difficult decision for me because I don’t generally like to change things that I think are working well. I don’t like to change things for change’s sake, and I don’t like to gamble with the well-being of the misfortunate people who find themselves having to utilize the Parkhouse facility. But I think that my initial reluctance is overcome based on evidence and not based on anything beyond that.”

Monson has said the county has been operating Parkhouse with an average deficit of about $2 million to $3 million a year.

Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Leslie Richards echoed the positive sentiments expressed by the Parkhouse working group and her colleagues on the board.

“While I did have an open mind going in, I do acknowledge that change — particularly this type of change to a nursing care facility — is hard and very emotional,” Richards said. “We weren’t looking just to sell, but it had to be the right people and to the right company, and it had to represent things that were very important to us.”

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