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Susque-View to shift from non-profit to private ownership

LOCK HAVEN — By March, Susque-View Home Nursing and Rehabilitation will be under private ownership.

The Clinton County commissioners approved the sale of the facility for $12.5 million to Allaire Health Services of New Jersey during its meeting Thursday.

The facility, a non-profit organization, has been under the purview of the commissioners — who serve as trustees — since 1968 when the facility was handed over from the former Lock Haven Hospital.

The sale is expected to be finalized in March, with Allaire entering into a management agreement for the facility on Feb. 8. The facility is currently managed day-to-day by third-party Quest Healthcare. Quest, which has changed hands and merged with other organizations over the years, has managed the facility since 1977 when it was under the name Diversified Health Services.

The 95 staff members employed at the facility will remain there.

“You’re not going to notice a change in that,” Jeff Snyder, who serves as trustee chair, said.

Snyder expanded on his statement, noting the facility will go through physical changes, including renovations.

“New wallpaper, painting, things like that. They’ll be doing that almost immediately,” he said.

Ensuring staff had the option to remain employed at the facility was a major part of the decision making process, Harding, vice chair of the board of trustees, said.

“If we didn’t believe that staff were going to be secure, have more opportunities, and better opportunities, we may not have moved forward with the idea to sell. The current market for skilled nurses is competitive. A non-profit has a very difficult time competing for available talent. Susque-View has been reliant on agency nurses for quite some time,” Harding said. “We needed to make sure the folks who live here, are raising their families here, and work there are going to have employment and the possibility of a bright future.”

Upgrades for the facility and offering better wages to employees were not possible as a non-profit, said Kessinger, who serves as secretary for the board of trustees.

Since 2020, the facility has struggled with staffing and upkeep, which was something the commissioners took into consideration when approached by Allaire in mid-2020.

“We were not actively seeking to sell,” Snyder noted. “But when approached, we decided to give it consideration. We feel that it is becoming more and more difficult for a non-profit facility to be sustainable.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges that included staffing and ensuring residents receive the best care, Snyder said.

“We are one of the few counties left in the Commonwealth that still owns a nursing home,” Kessinger said. “With the way that healthcare has changed and become more specialized, we feel the time is right. Years ago, it was required in County Code to provide a nursing home. That requirement is no longer mandated.”

Once the sale is finalized, the commissioners said the $12 million will go right into the county’s budget. However, it isn’t earmarked for anything in particular.

Harding noted these funds could serve as a buffer against future tax increases if invested properly.

Overall, the sale won’t have an affect on the county.

“The county owns the building, the property. It has not managed it for 35 years,” Kessinger said.

Kessinger said the $12.5 million sale amount was chosen after the building and property were appraised.

Allaire’s president and CEO, Ben Kurland, and members of his staff attended the commissioners meeting Thursday both in-person and virtually.

Kurland said the challenges Susque-View has faced are similar to other care facilities across the country, and Allaire hopes to help improve its already commendable services.

“We see such opportunity there. The staff is amazing,” Kurland said. “I commend the commissioners and other members of the community. They’ve done a stellar job of making sure residents get the care they deserve.”

Along with improving care at the facility, Kurland said he hopes Allaire can create a partnership with UPMC Lock Haven.

Allaire owns five other facilities including Grandview Nursing and Rehabilitation in Danville.

Ann McLaughlin, RN and Admissions Director at Grandview, spoke on her own experience with Allaire.

McLaughlin said she was already employed at Grandview when Allaire took over operations of the facility in 2018.

There was an initial fear that she and other staff at the facility had when they learned the news, she said.

However, the support the facility has gained through the take-over has outweighed these doubts.

“In September 2020 when we had an outbreak of COVID-19, Allaire sent staff from New Jersey to help in the kitchens, with residents, anywhere,” she said. “They brought incredible resources we never had before.”

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