Montco sells Parkhouse nursing complex

The Parkhouse senior care facility in Royersford was $8 million in debt, according to a Montco official.
The Parkhouse senior care facility in Royersford was $8 million in debt, according to a Montco official. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 11, 2014

NORRISTOWN Montgomery County on Thursday sold the Parkhouse nursing-home complex - which officials said was eating up millions of taxpayer dollars annually - to a private operator.

Mid-Atlantic Health Care, a Maryland company, bought the 227-acre Royersford facility for $41 million. Under the agreement, some of the county-owned land in the vicinity will be preserved as open space.

The transaction was effective as soon as officials for both sides signed papers during a two-hour break in the county commissioners' meeting. Before the recess, commissioners passed several resolutions about public access to the land.

They began looking at what to do with the facility in February 2013, and voted unanimously in October to privatize the complex, which includes three buildings that house independent-living apartments, short-term and long-term care, and day services for the county's elderly poor. It has 500 residents and 530 full-time and 145 part-time employees.

Uri Z. Monson, the county's chief financial officer, said in October that Parkhouse was $8 million in debt. Running it cost the county from $2 million to $7 million a year, he said.

Rather than continued losses, Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro said, the sale will net the county a $28.6 million profit. About $20 million of that will go into the reserve fund, he said, bringing the balance to just over $40 million.

Many counties in Pennsylvania have sold nursing homes they owned and operated for the elderly poor, as stagnant Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates have failed to keep up with rising expenses.

A group of residents protested the property's sale and asked commissioners to keep and preserve the undeveloped land surrounding the buildings. The county responded Thursday by arranging to have Upper Schuylkill Valley Park, across State Route 113 from the complex in Upper Providence Township, placed under a restricted deed and permanently preserved as open space. The park will get about $460,000 in renovations, with half of that coming from a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant.

The Parkhouse agreement requires Mid-Atlantic to let the public use part of the facility's land for recreational purposes for at least five years. At any point in time, the buyer, Mid-Atlantic Health Care, would have to get permission from the township if it wants to develop the parts of the property where construction can occur. It also would have to get township approval to make any aesthetic changes to the property, such as cutting down trees or shrubs.

Shapiro said the deal addressed public concerns. "We heard loud and clear that local government officials and residents wanted to have a say over the future of that facility," Shapiro said later Thursday.

Mid-Atlantic officials were pleased the deal was done. "Mid-Atlantic Health Care is proud to welcome the residents, families, and employees of the Parkhouse community to our own family of skilled care centers," said its CEO, Scott Rifkin.

Not everyone was pleased, said one of the protest organizers.

Shapiro "knows this isn't what we wanted. We wanted the land to stay in public hands" and the county to keep operating Parkhouse, said Barbara Flynn of Royersford. She owns a nearby stable that has used the property for trail rides.

She said she did not know that the county planned to finalize the sale during Thursday's meeting and called the process "sneaky."

Apart from the protests, the proposed sale drew controversy in February when County Controller Stewart J. Greenleaf Jr. issued a 15-page audit. The report said that Elliot Menkowitz, an orthopedic surgeon who worked at Parkhouse at the time, may have violated county ethics and procurement policies by passing on inside information about the impending sale to Mid-Atlantic.

The audit also determined that despite Menkowitz's involvement, the sale legally could proceed.

County officials fired Menkowitz after the report's release for violating the policies. Rifkin said Thursday that Menkowitz and the development company he created "are no longer involved in the deal with Mid-Atlantic."


cdavis@phillynews.com

610-313-8109

@carolyntweets

www.inquirer.com/montcomemo

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