HOLLIDAYSBURG - Valley View Home's unionized employees presented the Blair County commissioners with dozens of petitions on Tuesday containing an estimated 4,000 signatures in support of having the county retain ownership of the home.
They also called on the community to support its effort to preserve the county-owned nursing facility that has cared for and been available to thousands of local residents for almost 60 years.
"We give it 110 percent, and what do we ask? We ask that it stay a county home," certified nurse's aide Sharon Pope said.
Mirror photo by Kay Stephens
Valley View Home employee Dawn Porter explains why she wants the home to remain a county-owned nursing facility. Fellow employees offered their support by presenting the commissioners with petitions bearing 4,000 signatures.
Commissioners took no action Tuesday on a proposal described last week that would permit the Chicago firm of Marcus & Millichap to begin an effort that could lead to the sale of the home.
Representatives of the firm offered to calculate the home's value and to advertise and negotiate with potential buyers. The county will pay nothing for those services unless commissioners agree to sell, resulting in a fee of 2.5 percent of the sales price.
"To me, it makes sense to consider it now," Commissioners Chairman Terry Tomassetti said Tuesday.
Tomassetti and fellow commissioners say the changing health care industry leaves them worried about the home's financial future and how that could someday affect government because 35 percent of the county's labor force works at Valley View.
"This is not a matter of dissatisfaction," Tomassetti said. "We have short-term and long-term financial stability issues that we have to be concerned with."
Solicitor Nathan Karn said Tuesday that he is finished reviewing the Marcus & Millichap proposal and made changes that the company has approved.
The proposal may be up for a vote next week or the following week, Tomassetti said.
"We're willing to do whatever it takes for this to continue to be a county home," Service Employees International Union Healthcare representative Matthew Yarnell told the commissioners.
Commissioner Diane Meling said she appreciated that offer and praised the employees who helped elevate Valley View Home to a four-star ranking by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"We understand who makes that possible," Meling told the employees.
Employees said they fear that selling the home to a private company will bring unwanted changes.
"We've seen what happens at for-profit homes," certified nurse's aide and union leader Dawn Futrell said during a press conference the union held on the Blair County Courthouse patio after addressing commissioners.
"At one home, they cut back on supplies to make a profit, so nurses had to rinse and reuse colostomy bags so often that they fell apart. ... Our family members deserve better than that," she said.
Dawn Porter, who works in Valley View's dietary department, said she and her family has first-hand knowledge of the current care at Valley View. Her mother, she said, lived there for two years, until her death in June.
"Our mother wasn't just a number at Valley View Home and she certainly wasn't a dollar sign that someone was making a profit off of," Porter said. "She was treated with dignity and respect every day she was there."
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.