Originally Posted Online: Nov. 01, 2012, 7:08 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 01, 2012, 7:17 pm

Democrats back maintaining county ownership of Hope Creek

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By Eric Timmons etimmons@qconline.com

Rock Island County Democrats put on a show of support Thursday for the county maintaining control of Hope Creek Care Center, which some Republicans think should be sold or leased to a private company.

"It's a bad idea and all of us here will fight it all the way," Rock Island County Board member Steve Meersman, D-Moline, said at a news conference.

He was joined at the news conference near Hope Creek by other Democratic county board members and said that voting for Republican candidates "may be a vote to privatize Hope Creek."

No formal move to sell or privatize the nursing home has been made but Republicans who support privatization point to other counties that have sold their nursing homes and say Hope Creek has suffered from mismanagement and would be better run by a private company with health care expertise.

"When you've got 102 counties in Illinois and only 10 county nursing homes I wonder why we should be involved," said Brian Westin, the Republican county board candidate for district 17 said.

Democrats like Mr. Meersman point out that a majority of the county's residents have voted in referendums to support paying a tax levy to fund a county nursing home. Selling the home would require the public's consent, he said.

Mr. Meersman, who chairs the committee that oversees Hope Creek, also said that Hope Creek takes seniors covered by Medicaid in larger numbers than private nursing homes. Many of those seniors have exhausted all of their assets.

"The sale or privatization of Hope Creek could result in the involuntary discharge of up to 150 Medicaid residents of the home who rely on Hope Creek," Mr. Meersman said. "Where would these people go?"

The nursing home has faced financial difficulties because of delays and cutbacks in state funding and an increase in the bed tax levies by the state. In response, rates for private-pay residents have been increased. But Hope Creek does have a balanced budget for next year.

At least eight Republican candidates for county board have said they think the county should investigate selling Hope Creek when surveyed by this newspaper. A handful of others said the county should keep the nursing home.

"I do not think that Rock Island County should be in the Health Care Business," said a statement from Marty Matherly, the Republican candidate for district 23. "If there is a professional company with experience in running health care facilities willing to purchase Hope Creek, then I would support that."

An approach to buy or lease the Hope Creek was made by CRG Management of Skokie in March. The offer was rebuffed by the county board. CRG owns East Moline Nursing & Rehab Center.








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