Republican candidates for Rock Island County Board have pushed back against the notion that they support selling Hope Creek Care Center to a private company.
Democrats held a news conference on Thursday and said Republican county board candidates wanted to sell the county-owned nursing home.
At least eight Republican candidates have said they do support exploring the possible sale of the nursing home when surveyed by this newspaper. Some of those candidates clearly stated they would support selling Hope Creek to a private interest.
But at a news conference in Moline on Friday, 14 of the 23 Republican candidates who collectively form the "Clean Slate" coalition, said they had no position as a group on Hope Creek.
The Republicans also said that if a decision to change ownership of the nursing home was proposed it would be up to voters to decide through a referendum.
On Thursday, Rock Island County Board member Steve Meersman, D-Moline, led Democratic county board members and candidates in promising that they would fight any attempt to privatize Hope Creek.
Cash reserves at the nursing home have increased from $200,000 a year ago to over $2 million now, Mr. Meersman said, as evidence that despite problems with state funding Hope Creek is in good shape.
Rock Island County Board candidate Ron Oelke, speaking at the Republican news conference on Friday, said it was false to say the quality of care would decline if the nursing home was put under private control.Mr. Oelke has previously stated that he supports selling Hope Creek.
"I work at Genesis Health System and I can't speak for Genesis Health System but Genesis runs several nursing homes and we have five star ratings at our nursing homes," he said. "So to say that just because you change ownership in the nursing home the quality of care is going to suffer, that's not true."
The crucial difference between Hope Creek and private nursing homes is that the county has an obligation to take in any Rock Island County resident, regardless of their financial status, said Mr. Meersman.
That means a large share of the nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid, which covers people who have exhausted all of their assets to pay for health care. Hope Creek makes a loss on Medicaid residents, Ms. Meersman said, as funding from the program is lower than the nursing's home costs.
There's no offer on the table to buy the nursing home at the moment, although at least one company expressed an interest earlier that was not entertained by the county board.
Mr. Oelke said Democrats were trying to distract voters by talking about Hope Creek. He said the Clean Slate's primary goal is to cut reduce the size of the board from 25 to 15 members, a move most Democrats on the board oppose.