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Hope Creek residents, family members and employees concerned about Aperion
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TROUBLING TIMES AT HOPE CREEK CARE CENTER

Hope Creek residents, family members and employees concerned about Aperion

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Karen Decker, 82, has been a resident at Hope Creek Care Center for three years.

A former nurse, she knows good care when she sees it. She can't imagine spending the final years of her life anywhere else.

So the prospect that Aperion Care, Inc., a nursing home chain with a bad reputation for poor care, is close to finalizing a deal to purchase the county-owned nursing home at 4343 Kennedy Dr., East Moline, is upsetting to Decker. 

Aperion racked up $367,000 in fines from the Illinois Department of Public Health just in 2019 across its 34 facilities in Illinois.

"It bothers me a great deal," Decker said. "I have a very strong concern about what Aperion will do here. If they have these types of fines from the (state) already, what are they going to do when they come here? We haven't got those fines or degradation of care.

"We have a wonderful facility; we have a clean one and they take proper care of us."

Rock Island County board members voted in June to seek buyers for Hope Creek, saying the county could no longer continue to support it financially.  

Board members may hold a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 25 to vote on accepting a sales contract with Aperion, the highest bidder at $6 million. The facility, listed for $19 million in September by broker Marcus & Millichap, attracted three other lower offers: Altitude Healthcare and Cascade Legacy Healthcare both offered $5 million, and Mosaic Healthcare offered $5.5 million. 

Decker doesn't know if she will remain at the facility if Aperion takes over. She has no place to go. 

"There is no place as good as this one," she said. "I love it. It's a beautiful home and it's well taken care of. The people are great and the personnel are very good. They know how to laugh; we laugh a lot. They take good care of us."

Decker's son, Dan Decker, also is concerned. When it was time to place his mother in a nursing facility, he did exhaustive research to find the right place for her. 

"I went to 12 nursing homes; every single nursing home in this area," Dan Decker said. "Aperion is one of the worst ones out there. It does not surprise me at all about all the fines."

He said he visits his mother at Hope Creek every day. If her care starts to suffer if Aperion takes over, he will stop in twice a day to care for her himself. If things get bad enough, he will move her to another facility. 

Dan Decker is upset with the county board. He doesn't think they allowed enough time for Hope Creek to be on the market and he's bothered by the low offer of $6 million. 

"The Rock Island County board — they're not the sharpest tools in the shed," Dan Decker said. "When you're talking million-dollar purchases, it doesn't happen right away. There are 20 people on the books trying to move into Hope Creek, but they can't get in because they don't have it staffed correctly. It's mismanaged. The worst thing about it is the staffing.

"My mom has paid taxes to Rock Island County for more than 60 years," he said. "When you say anything about the zoo, nobody wants to talk about it. Animals are more important than people. Whoever voted to sell Hope Creek, that is their exit call from being on the board. If you can vote to get rid of elderly people who've paid taxes their whole life, there are enough people who can run against those board members."

Hope Creek Activity Aide Cheryl Campbell has been employed at the facility for 15 years. As a member of AFSCME, Campbell is upset county board members did not include successor language in the contract with Aperion. Even if she keeps her job, she will lose her union benefits and pension contributions. 

Campbell was also dismayed at the low offer of $6 million, but more upset the offer was from Aperion. 

"Finding out it was Aperion just breaks my heart," Campbell said. "They have a horrible reputation. I've been in their facility and the smell does knock you out as soon as you walk in the door. I see employees walking around on their cell phones in the hallways. You can see the care is not good.

"My extreme worry is that if Aperion comes here, the quality of care for these residents is going to decline and I would say dramatically because they want profit," she said. "I know their wages are lower than ours. I would guess they will decrease wages here if they have the opportunity."

The pending sale of Hope Creek has already caused some employees to jump ship. County Administrator Jim Snider said last week that three nurses have already quit and recently, Director of Nursing Katie Hughes and Unit Manager Chris Wheelock turned in their resignations. The high-level turnover is hurting morale and affecting residents. 

Larry Watts, 81, has been a Hope Creek resident for two years. 

"I really like it here," he said. "The CNAs are all good, the nurses are good, the place is clean. There are a lot of activities going on and the food is pretty good, too. I've been taken real good care of here."

Watts is upset some of his favorite nurses have already quit in advance of the sale. He doesn't like the news he is hearing about Aperion possibly buying Hope Creek. 

"What you hear going around is not very good," Watts said. "They've had a lot of fines. I heard the other (Aperion) nearby, (430 30th Ave., East Moline) that when you open the front door, you about pass out. They don't keep it clean."

Watts is a U.S. Navy veteran and dependent on disability benefits from the government to pay for his care. He is concerned Aperion will not accept his benefits. 

"I'll have to hang in and let it play out," he said. "I don't really have any other place to go."

Jimmie Scott's mother, Betty Scott, 90, has lived at Hope Creek for three years. 

"She loves this place. Not only that, the place loves her," Jimmie Scott said. "They take care of her like she is actual family. They have dignity here. Every day she dresses up with different jewelry and greets people. They treat my mom like she is their mom. Mom has pictures of the staff up on her walls. The people in here, the people who work here, they're all like family. 

"I think this whole (sale) is more political than it is about the people. I think (board members) just want to make it go away. I think they're tired of talking about it."

Scott said large corporate nursing home chains care more about their bottom line and profits. 

"If we move in conglomerate care centers that are going to give less than standard care and treat people like they are a dollar sign and not a human being ...

"My mom told me, this is the happiest she's ever been her whole life. How can you be 90-years-old and be the happiest you've been in your whole life? It's because of the people that work here."

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Related to this story

Aperion Care, the nursing home chain in talks to buy Rock Island County's Hope Creek Care Center, was fined $366,800 by the Illinois Department of Public Health in 2019 across its 34 Illinois facilities, including a $50,000 fine at the Forest Park location after the body of a 64-year-old man with dementia was found in a river after he fled the facility. 

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