Group continues work to reopen nursing home

A group of private investors is continuing its efforts to purchase the now-vacant Valley View Manor and open a nursing home in Craig.

Pam Young has been working as a liaison between the local investors and the nursing home's former owners, Mariner Health Care.

"We are in negotiations with Mariner to purchase the facility," Young said. "I think there's a good possibility we'll be able to get a negotiated deal. I can't tell you when the time frame will be."

The group submitted proposals to Mariner regarding purchasing the facility. Mariner originally was asking $600,000 for the vacant building.

While others have reported difficulty establishing meaningful discussions with Mariner, Young said the company is being cooperative.

"They've responded to all my requests," Young said. She said she frequently communicates with the company.

On June 3, 2003, Mariner announced it would be closing in 60 days. A representative from the company said the facility was operating more than $1 million in the red. The 39 residents were transferred to facilities in Steamboat, Meeker and elsewhere.

Tracey Berhman, who also has worked with the private investors, said she receives calls almost daily from potential clients, former nursing home residents and their families who are wondering when a nursing home will reopen in Craig.

Since June, the nursing home has been a recurring topic in many public settings. One man approached the hospital board, saying he was devastated that the home had closed and a solution hadn't been found. Residents have written to the Craig Daily Press advocating that reopening the nursing home should be the focus of a community-wide effort. Other government bodies have heard residents say that a long-term care facility should be a priority.

The Memorial Hospital's management company, Quorum Health Resources is finishing a feasibility study that was commissioned on behalf of TMH, the City of Craig and Moffat County.

Hospital Administrator Randy Phelps said the report may be unveiled at the meeting of TMH's Board of Trustees Wednesday.

Although Phelps hasn't seen the report, he said it might "look at our population and make a projection of the number of nursing home clients that this population would ordinarily generate."

The report could establish the likelihood that a nursing home could make money operating here. The feasibility report will be made available to any interested party, including the private investors, Phelps said.

Aside from the emotional burdens on families who had to send loved ones to other communities, the closing brought financial repercussions as well.

Nursing home staff members lost their jobs.

And the loss of the nursing home was a huge financial blow from the hospital's standpoint.

In 2002, TMH was owed about $368,000 in Medicare reimbursements for treating Valley View Manor Patients. In the first five months of 2003, those reimbursements amounted to $150,000. After the nursing home closed, the reimbursements dropped to zero.

In a December letter to the TMH Board of Trustees, Phelps wrote, "The loss of the nursing home client revenue and the decline in general surgery volume have simply overwhelmed the financial results and there is no hope that we're going to make the budget this year."

TMH budgeted for Medicare reimbursements from treating nursing home patients, but Valley View Manor residents were relocated to other communities halfway through the year.

Young said she may know more about the nursing home's future next week.

The local group that wants to purchase Valley View Manor originally looked at managing it themselves, Young said. But long-term care facilities are such specialized businesses that the group decided just to buy the building and hire a management company to run it.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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