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Care center under new management

by Christy Chalmers

A Cleveland, Ohio-based firm called Multi-Care Management will take over the Valley Meadows nursing home in October, but officials for both businesses say there won’t be any layoffs or management changes.

Administrator Jim Heinzen and nursing director Bonnie Carver say they will remain when Multi-Care assumes the lease that has been held by the center’s employees since they took ownership of the often-troubled business in April, a position confirmed by George Repchick, chief operating officer of Multi-Care.

Heinzen said the workers have high hopes for the center under Multi-Care’s direction, though he acknowledged the change resulted from a “business decision” by the center’s landlord to terminate the employee group’s lease, effective Oct. 29.

“The employees would have liked to keep running the firm, but the employees should be very proud of what occurred,” said Heinzen. “The employees kept it open since it went into receivership with no outside help. We turned it from a building no one really wanted into something of value and interest to an outside corporation.”

“We like the employees and we feel that the area is a strong area and a growing area,” Repchick said from his office in Ohio. “The employees have certainly created a special atmosphere for that building. That’s a lot of great tools to work with.”

The facility, located in the Gardnerville Ranchos and formerly known as Cottonwood Care Center, was purchased by Carson-Tahoe Hospital in 1995, but hospital officials leased it to private operators after they couldn’t turn a profit. The private operator, Arizona-based Premier Care Services, defaulted on a million-dollar loan from the hospital and Valley Meadows went into receivership in October 1998. Throughout that time, the facility faced sanctions from the state over staffing and other conditions, and three lawsuits were filed between 1996 and May 1998 alleging negligence of former residents.

Heinzen, who has been administrator of the facility for two years, and the employees formed an ownership group to run Valley Meadows in April. He said the group was in the process of issuing stock certificates, but the impending change won’t cost the employee owners anything because the center wasn’t turning a profit.

David Pumphrey, a partner in PDQ Limited Partnership, which owns the building, said concerns about the group’s long-term solvency spurred PDQ’s decision to find a new operator.

“We have been firmly convinced for some time that, for better or worse, Valley Meadows Living Center, Inc., couldn’t make a go of it on their own,” he said in a Sept. 15 statement. “Valley Meadows requires an average census of 109 residents (and) has never been close to that. It appears that Valley Meadows will run out of cash in the next few months no matter what.”

PDQ, which itself was looking for new investors, began soliciting prospective buyers and operators. Pumphrey said PDQ found new investors for itself, but they insisted on proof of a solid nursing home operator with a 10-year lease.

The search yielded Multi-Care, which agreed to a long-term lease.

“I think it’s going to work out very well,” said Pumphrey. “It’s a combination of the (Valley Meadows) employees who have done a great job and some new people with financial capital to put into it. These are people who will give it as good a chance for success as it’s ever had.”

Repchick described Multi-Care as a family-run company with 15 nursing homes in Ohio, Nevada and South Carolina that range in size from 33 to 230 beds. He said Multi-Care recently built a 220-bed nursing home in Las Vegas and anticipates expanding its Nevada holdings.

Valley Meadows has nearly 100 employees and about 100 residents. Heinzen said they shouldn’t notice any difference when the new group takes over.

“I don’t anticipate any change in the continuity of care. They appear to be very reputable,” said Heinzen. “All we ever wanted was for the center to be stable. We are hopeful this will be the next step in this nursing home’s progression.”