A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Public blasts commissioners over impending sale of Citizens and Montevue

Frederick Gorilla
Emily Holland
06/26/2013
Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine Young and the rest of the board members processed through a crowd that was not only unsettled, but irate. People shouted, noisemakers and cowbells rattled and clanked, and a gentleman with a megaphone spearheaded the cries. Public hearings rarely become this heated, especially in a smaller town environment, but yesterday’s event at Frederick Community College’s Jack B. Kussmaul Auditorium brought a spectrum of deep-seated emotions to the forefront. At issue was the impending sale (privatization) of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) and Montevue Assisted Living (MAL), both of which are currently subsidized by the county. The vast majority of the crowd had gathered to oppose this motion, rallying with indignant gusto. CCRC and MAL are the latest manifestations of the Rosemont Avenue property’s covenant “for the Benefit of the Poor of Frederick County and no other use, intent, purpose whatsoever forever” (as stated in the 1828 deed). CCRC was constructed in 1975, and MAL followed in 1987. New, state-of-the-art facilities were completed in 2012, but in November of that year, the Board of Commissioners announced they were looking into selling the facility to a private management firm. These plans became less speculative and more concrete with the dawn of 2013, and by June, a purchaser had been identified, Aurora Health Management, LLC

County decides to sell nursing home, assisted living centers

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/26/2013
County commissioners voted Tuesday night to sell the government-owned nursing home along with the assisted living center that has served needy local residents for about 140 years. The decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living was supported by four commissioners and opposed by Commissioner David Gray. The same four commissioners also voted to abolish the Citizens board of trustees. The decision followed about five hours of public comment from local residents, elder care experts and those who live at Citizens and Montevue. “I ask you not to sell my home, but to give my home a chance to prove itself. To believe in the folks that run Montevue and give them a chance to prove it is a diamond in the rough,” said Lawrence Watson, 95, who was accompanied to the microphone by his two daughters and granddaughter. The vast majority of hearing participants objected to selling the facilities, a fact highlighted by speaker Kermit Liebensperger, who asked privatization supporters to rise. “Don’t be bashful. There must be someone,” he said after several moments of silence.

Delay decision on selling Citizens-Montevue

Frederick News Post
06/25/2013
If they’re wise, Frederick County commissioners will postpone a decision on selling Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living at tonight’s public hearing. We weren’t confident in the county’s due diligence as officials have rushed to unload the centers, even before a financial expert in nursing home care backed what the homes’ trustees have been saying all along — that Citizens and Montevue can become profitable if they collect per-patient revenue at rates comparable to those of other centers. And while we were advocating a delay in the $30 million sale to Aurora Health Management, we became even more skeptical after reading an article printed over the weekend in The Frederick News-Post. The story illustrated that Aurora had had mixed reports about care centers under its ownership.

Estimates in dispute for sale of Citizens, Montevue

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/25/2013
Dollars and cents are a central part of the debate over whether to sell the county-owned nursing and assisted living centers. However, those involved in the argument have yet to agree on exactly what those numbers are. Frederick County’s financial analysis predicts that taxpayers would see a net benefit of more than $12.3 million over the next four years if officials privatize Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Opponents of privatization have challenged this summary, saying the figures are skewed to make a $30 million sale to Aurora Health Management look more attractive. Sale opponents also say the facilities could turn a profit if properly managed, an effort to debunk the notion that the centers are bound to keep losing money if they remain under county ownership. These optimistic projections have been challenged by county staff, who say the numbers are flawed because they are based on only one month of data.

State Commission on Aging opposes sale of Citizens-Montevue

Frederick News Post
Louise Lynch
06/25/2013
On behalf of the Maryland State Commission on Aging, I am writing to voice our concerns regarding the potential sale/privatization of the county-owned Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. We are particularly concerned about the future long-term severe and life-threatening consequences for the low-income elderly of Frederick County who need the care provided by Montevue. Therefore, in view of the severity of the impact on the rapidly growing senior population in Frederick County, the commission is asking the Board of County Commissioners the following questions:

When Ideology Trumps Reasonable Representation, Bad Things Happen….

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
06/23/2013
The proposed sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business”. Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Company”. The moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by the “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Company wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation.

Inspections detail deficiencies at Aurora nursing homes

Proposed buyer of Citizens and Montevue has spotty quality record
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/22/2013
The company looking to buy Frederick County's nursing and assisted living centers has a bumpy track record for resident care, with some facilities scoring well in quality checks and others faulted for reported instances of medical error, inattentiveness and verbal abuse. County officials have said resident care was a top consideration as they evaluated potential buyers for Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. The $30 million purchase offer now under consideration was not the highest bid the county received for the two facilities, but Aurora Health Management's proposal rose above the rest when weighing the well-being of residents and facility employees, officials have said. Commissioners President Blaine Young says he believes the facilities will end up in good hands if sold to Aurora. In forming his opinion, Young said he relied heavily on the team of county officials who recommended Aurora as the top bidder. "I don't know a lot about nursing homes," he said. "I put confidence in the evaluation team." The evaluation team joined Citizens' executive administrator and its director of nursing to tour an Aurora facility in Princess Anne and left impressed by the operation. However, online records show the seven facilities now owned by the Millersville-based Aurora have performed unevenly in quality evaluations. All skilled nursing centers that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments must undergo periodic inspections, which are then used to rate the facilities. Citizens currently has above-average ratings for overall quality and health care. But according to the Medicare website, two of Aurora's seven facilities were graded as below average, and another is rated as much below average.

Expert: Billing saps Citizens Care revenue

Former nursing home officer presents analysis to League of Women Voters
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/15/2013
Under-billing for Medicaid payments is preventing Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center from turning a profit, a former nursing home officer said Friday. Melanie Cox's analysis found that if Citizens started collecting per-patient revenue at the rates of comparable centers, the facility would end up with a $2.8 million surplus in the second year. Cox presented her findings at a meeting organized by the League of Women Voters of Frederick County to discuss the potential privatization of Citizens and Montevue Assisted Living, two facilities now owned by the county. A Millersville-based company, Aurora Health Management, has extended a $30 million offer to buy the two centers. Frederick County's commissioners are exploring the sale as a way to eliminate the annual county subsidies required to sustain the centers. However, Cox said that, with some billing changes, the centers could become profitable, as evidenced by the fact that a private company wants to buy them. "I guarantee Aurora is not going into this thinking they will lose money," said Cox, former officer of Meridian Nursing Center.

Citizens-Montevue: Questions still to be answered

Frederick News Post
06/09/2013
The renewed aggression with which the Board of County Commissioners is moving ahead on the sale of Frederick County’s publically-owned assisted living home and nursing centers has once again raised the question: What’s the rush? No one from the county has yet satisfactorily answered, we presume because there’s not a satisfactory answer other than to get this done ahead of the 2014 election and tick another to-do item off the tea-party-driven list of government institutions to dismantle.

Thank goodness for David Gray

Frederick News Post
William Bugg
05/28/2013
This is contrary to Mr. Young, who considers only his personal desires and the special interest groups that support his personal desires. Evidence supporting his one-sidedness are recent actions by Mr. Young in total disregard of the negative impact on current Monrovia residents in the huge overbuilding in Monrovia. Another example is his childish treatment of the Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living trustees because they do not support the sale of the homes but he does. Mr. Young wants to abolish the board of trustees. That would be a huge mistake. I hope there is standing room only at the June 25 public hearing at Frederick Community College to let Mr. Young know the error of his ways. We need more politicians like Commissioner Gray. It’s about time!

Praise for Citizens, Montevue

Frederick News Post
Barbara Spencer
05/25/2013
As a nurse for over 20 years, I have been associated with Montevue Assisted Living and Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center for over 10 years. I started in 2002 as a “relief” charge nurse as I was completing my nurse practitioner studies. This was my first experience with assisted living facility or long-term care for the geriatric population. I was impressed with the way staff and residents interacted — there was a real sense of community. In 2005, I encountered Citizens as a nurse practitioner working for a Medicare advantage program. I was the primary care provider for up to 70 residents. Again, I was impressed. Staff of all departments — nursing, housekeeping, dietary, therapy — seemed to treat the residents as they would their own family members. In fact, staff treated each other as family or a good neighbor. I was impressed with the longevity of the staff. I felt the same sense of loyalty and community as I had at Montevue several years earlier. Although not an employee, I was treated as a member of the community.

County to consider abolishing Citizens, Montevue trustees board

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
05/24/2013
A proposal to abolish the board of trustees for Frederick County's nursing and assisted living centers is headed to the same public hearing slated for discussion of selling the two facilities. Eliminating the trustees might lessen the risk of legal action against the county if officials decide to privatize Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living, the county attorney said Thursday. Commissioners President Blaine Young said whether he and fellow board members decide the county should keep or sell the centers, he thinks the commissioners should take a more hands-on role in managing them. During Thursday's county meeting, commissioners voted 4-1 to forward the issue to a June 25 hearing. Commissioner David Gray cast the only opposing vote. Sonja Sperlich, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said it comes as no surprise to her that commissioners might do away with her group. "It's shocking, shameful, disgraceful, but not unexpected," she said. The board of trustees has already voted in opposition to selling Citizens and Montevue, she said.

County to entertain $30M offer for Citizens, Montevue

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
05/17/2013
The last bid standing for Frederick County's nursing and assisted living centers belongs to a Millersville-based company that has offered to pay $30 million for the facilities and keep their current employees. County commissioners discussed the proposal from Aurora Health Management in a roughly hourlong closed session Thursday afternoon. Their move to entertain the offer marks the latest step in deciding the future of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living, two facilities whose large budget gaps have caused commissioners to explore selling options.

Citizens-Montevue chairwoman responds

Frederick News Post
Sonja Sperlich
05/10/2013
I must take issue with Commissioner Blaine Young’s comments in the Wednesday, May 1 article, “Trustees: Montevue, Citizens need more time.” Commissioner Young is reported as saying that the Citizens Board of Trustees has “shied away from making tough decisions — such as cutting staff — that could put the facilities on stronger financial footing.” Allow me to set the record straight:

Delay the sale of Citizens & Montevue

Frederick News Post
05/02/2013
Next year, Frederick County’s publicly owned assisted-living homes could post a $1.5 million profit. When we heard that piece of budget information, delivered by four members of the Board of Trustees for Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living during an editorial board on Tuesday, we were swayed. It’s true that the facilities have historically been heavily subsidized by county taxpayers, but that was before the two assisted-living facilities were completely rebuilt and reopened in June 2012. Let’s set aside the legal debate about the meaning of the original deed, for a moment, which may end up tested in court, the four trustees said. And also put out of your mind the moral argument -- the trauma privatization could cause to residents, the job fears of the staff, or that the destitute population of seniors for whom Montevue is the last stop in life will have nowhere else to go. The compelling argument is this: the potential for these recently rebuilt, state-of-the-art facilities is only beginning to be realized. For that reason, we support a delay in the county’s move to sell this facility to a private company.

Delay the sale of Citizens & Montevue

Frederick News Post
05/02/2013
Next year, Frederick County’s publicly owned assisted-living homes could post a $1.5 million profit. When we heard that piece of budget information, delivered by four members of the Board of Trustees for Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living during an editorial board on Tuesday, we were swayed. It’s true that the facilities have historically been heavily subsidized by county taxpayers, but that was before the two assisted-living facilities were completely rebuilt and reopened in June 2012. Let’s set aside the legal debate about the meaning of the original deed, for a moment, which may end up tested in court, the four trustees said. And also put out of your mind the moral argument -- the trauma privatization could cause to residents, the job fears of the staff, or that the destitute population of seniors for whom Montevue is the last stop in life will have nowhere else to go. The compelling argument is this: the potential for these recently rebuilt, state-of-the-art facilities is only beginning to be realized. For that reason, we support a delay in the county’s move to sell this facility to a private company.

Citizens/Montevue: Then and now

Frederick News Post
Charles F. Trunk III
04/30/2013
It is useful to remember that the Brunner family sold the property to the county when the county was looking to build a new and larger almshouse — a county home for the care of all displaced citizens of the time: orphans, widows, the disabled, the mentally ill and yes, the elderly with no place else to go. Mr. and Mrs. Brunner and the members of the Levy Court (today’s commissioners) knew that and wrote that purpose into the deed. From then on, such services have been provided continuously to this day. As other state and local providers for various human service needs were developed over the years, individuals were moved from care at Montevue, but services to the elderly remained. Has the county used the Montevue property for other purposes? Yes, it has, and every one of these functions serves the citizens of Frederick County every day. Never before has a board of commissioners attempted to sell a portion of the property to a private company. And, by the way, sell such prime road frontage for much less than its value. The residents of Frederick County need to know two important facts. The first is that the existence of Montevue as the only assisted living option available for poor senior citizens is tied directly to Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center being owned by Frederick County. There is no private business that can or will keep Montevue open to serve the poor. There is simply no profit to be made there. As soon as the last current resident dies, or is relocated or goes to the hospital, Montevue as we know it will cease to exist, ending a nearly 200-year history of service to the elderly poor of this county.

Democrats object to care-home privatization

Frederick News Post
Myrna Whitworth
04/21/2013
We strongly object to the Board of County Commissioners’ rush to sell the Frederick County-owned Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living facilities. Here are the facts as we see them: In 1828, the Brunner family sold 94 acres to the county with the proviso that it be used for the benefit of the poor of Frederick County, in perpetuity. With that, they laid the foundation that enabled Frederick County to meet the needs of some of its poorest citizens. Generations of BoCCs of all stripes have built on that foundation; Montevue was established and maintained through good times and bad — the great depression, two world wars, budget surpluses and budget shortfalls — the county taxpayers willingly providing a subsidy to operate the facility. In 1975, Citizens, a skilled nursing facility, was added; then in 2009, ground was broken for new facilities.

Postpone planned privatization of Citizens and Montevue

Frederick News Post
Claire Kondig
04/18/2013
The Frederick County League of Women Voters urges the Board of County Commissioners to postpone action on the proposed sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. The league believes that the county commissioners need more time to carefully and fully evaluate other options to improve operations and reduce county funding. Why rush to sell a brand new facility whose board is in the midst of efforts to increase revenues and reduce operating costs? These two facilities represent an important safety net for our community's most vulnerable elderly citizens. Therefore, it is essential to take the time to examine the impact of selling the facilities on the citizens of Frederick County, both now and in the future.

County split of Citizens, Montevue land approved

Frederick News Post
Pete McCarthy
04/09/2013
Frederick County could now move forward with a sale of its assisted living and rehabilitation centers after approval Monday night of its request to subdivide the land where it sits. The city of Frederick's Planning Commission voted to approve a request made by the county that allows splitting the 41 acres into two parcels — one with the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility, and the other with the remaining buildings to be used for county office space and storage. “These are very difficult decisions, and we have to act in the boundaries of the law,” said Alderwoman Kelly Russell, a voting member on the planning commission. “Sometimes you don't have the tools you need to make certain decisions.” Despite public outcry, including about a dozen residents speaking out against dividing the land and a packed meeting room, planning commission members said they had no choice but to approve the county's request.