Valley View ownership to change hands soon

A representative for the Philadelphia company that will soon manage Valley View Home said care of the residents will remain a priority as the facility changes hands.

“We’ve always been about providing great patient care, clinical programs and taking care of the residents,” Reliant Senior Care Management Chief Executive Officer Nathan Niles said. “Care comes first with us.”

The 240-bed home, under the county’s ownership and management since it opened in 1954 at the Valley View Boulevard location, is slated to be turned over on Friday to Valley View Realco, a limited liability company registered in Delaware. The sales agreement states that the home, in turn, will be leased to Reliant Valley View Limited Liability Co.

“At the end of the day, we’re the ones running the home,” Niles said, referring to Reliant Senior Care Management which manages 21 nursing facilities in Pennsylvania with 2,000 beds. “And we’re committed to that.”

When Blair County commissioners showed interest in selling the home, they asked potential buyers to make a 10-year commitment to operate Valley View as a nursing home. Commissioners said that may have caused some bidders to back away. But Reliant and its investors remained interested and came through with the high bid of $16.5 million for the property.

“We made the commitment for 10 years and it will probably be longer than that,” Niles said.

In preparation for the ownership transfer, Reliant made some job offers to non-union administrative staff members, including current Valley View Nursing Home Administrator Chris Dear. If Dear accepts the offer, he’ll be changing employers because he works for Affinity Health Services of Indiana, Pa., which has managed the home for the county since January 2008.

In an telephone interview Thursday, Niles said his company does not need to retain Affinity’s services.

Dear acknowledged last week that he was offered a job with Reliant, but declined to say if he’s taking it.

Meanwhile, unionized employees remain worried about changes that the sale will mean to them and the residents they care for, said Dawn Futrell and Dawn Porter, leaders with the Service Employees International Union which represents about 200 licensed practical nurses, nurse aides, dietary aides, housekeeping and maintenance employees.

In preparation for the transfer, county employees had to fill out job applications with Reliant, Porter said, with no assurance of being hired. Reliant also has advertised for employees and starting taking applications at the home.

Niles declined to spell out Reliant’s hiring plans, but he said that when Reliant personnel visited Valley View a few months ago, they saw staffing levels and great care comparable to that offered in Reliant’s facilities. That was one reason why Reliant remain interested in Valley View, Niles said.

Reliant will recognize the SEIU and the Office and Professional Employees International Union which represents the home’s registered nurses.

“At our other facilities, we work with those unions,” Niles said. “We know them and they know us.”

He also said Reliant puts more money into staffing than some other nursing homes.

“At the end of the day, if you want good care, that care comes from people,” he said.

For the county employees who go to work for Reliant, there will be changes in benefits, such as higher employee contributions toward health care benefits, an employee-funded 401K retirement plan instead of a defined benefit pension plan and seven holidays instead of 11 as recognized by the county.

As for Valley View’s admissions, Niles said he would expect little change there or with the independent living apartments the county created a few years ago in an aged wing of the home.

Reliant has no current plans for structural changes affecting services or care, Niles said, but in the future, it may want to consider capital improvement for the facility.

As for the neighboring soccer fields, initially identified as an area for expansion of the home or for related services, Niles said Reliant had no objection to the county retaining the fields.

“We are part of the community,” Niles said. “If that means people need to park on our grounds for weekend soccer games, then so be it.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.