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Valley View workers try to save home with Dickens

December 12, 2012
By Kay Stephens ( , The Altoona Mirror

HOLLIDAYSBURG - Blair County commissioners moved a few steps closer Tuesday toward the sale of Valley View Home despite three union employees using a popular Charles Dickens story to outline what's at risk.

Based on Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," nurse's aide Danielle Dickson, as the Ghost of Valley View's Future, spoke of the changes that might be realized after the sale of the 240-bed nursing facility.

"Money has become the bottom line," Dickson said.

She described the possibility of fewer activities, lesser-quality meals, a shortage of clean sheets and a one-star ranking for the facility by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which gave Valley View a four-star ranking in its last review.

Playing the Ghost of Valley View's Present, employee Todd Hickett spoke of the fear among the home's residents over the potential changes in the quality of care. Employee Mary Brandle, as the Ghost of Valley View's Past, recalled the reasons behind the facility that opened in 1954.

"We didn't open to make money," Brandle said. "We opened to provide care to anyone who needs it."

Commissioners, who last week agreed to have Chicago real estate investment firm Marcus & Millichap begin circulating a description of Valley View and surrounding grounds for sale, worked Tuesday on a proposal designed to address the home's future with potential buyers.

While the proposal is subject to further discussion, commissioners agreed Tuesday to include language asking potential buyers to describe their current business operations and their experiences in operating those facilities. The language also asks potential buyers to describe innovations in resident and patient care they have introduced elsewhere, and if they would be willing to consider introducing such innovations at Valley View Home.

"We want to see the breadth and the depth of the care that they will provide," Commissioners Chairman Terry Tomassetti said.

Commissioners also agreed Tuesday with the idea of asking potential buyers to commit to operating Valley View as a nursing care facility for a minimum of 10 years, to give admission preference to Blair County residents and to consider language that will maintain a minimum of skilled nursing care beds at the home.

Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. proposed naming a specific percentage of employees, perhaps 80 percent, who must be retained by a potential buyer. Another option is to recognize the employee unions that would require the potential buyer to hire at least 50 percent of the employees.

Commissioner Diane Meling said she would like to avoid the type of controversy regarding the retention of employees that surfaced when Cambria County sold its nursing home, Laurel Crest Rehabilitation & Special Care Center, at the end of 2009.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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