Valley View Home employees vowed Wednesday to continue pursuing public support to oppose the proposed sale of the county-owned nursing home.
"We have 240 people who call this facility home," certified nurse's aide Sharon Pope said. "And it's our job to continue to advocate for the ones who can't advocate for themselves."
Pope was one of several speakers who addressed a group of about 60 during a Wednesday afternoon rally on the edge of the home's driveway. The gathering followed a three-hour demonstration along Valley View Boulevard where employees and supporters carried and wore signs in opposition to the proposed sale.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Valley View Home employees (from left)?Jennifer Carlisle of Altoona, Christine Berish of Northern Cambria and Danielle Dickson of Altoona acknowledge the honking horn of a passing motorist.
"Seniors are not for sale," one sign stated.
"Hey Blair County, wake up and smell the sell-out," another sign stated. "Short-term gain not worth long-term pain."
Valley View resident Mary Ann Beckwith, who came to the rally by wheelchair, praised the home's services and the employees who care for the residents.
Beckwith, who worked at Valley View as a registered nurse for more than 21 years, said she transferred her father to Valley View where he got excellent care in the county-owned facility.
"So fight and fight to the end," Beckwith said. "I'm 100 percent behind you."
Blair County commissioners are reviewing proposals from five potential buyers: TL Management LLC, Brooklyn, N.Y., $16.1 million; Reliant Senior Care Management Inc., Philadelphia, $14.2 million; Altitude Health Services Inc., Evanston, Ill., $14.2 million; Nationwide HC Services LLC, Brick, N.J., $13.5 million; and Complete HC Resources, Dresher, Pa., $12.55 million.
The details of those proposals have not been made public. In response to a Right-to-Know request from the Altoona Mirror for access to review the proposals, the county invoked the use of a 30-day extension before offering a reply.
Commissioners Chairman Terry Tomassetti, who has been supportive of selling the home, said Tuesday that continued county ownership presents significant financial risk for the county, its taxpayers and Valley View Home. In its request for proposals to attract bids, commissioners asked all potential buyers to keep Valley View as a nursing facility for 10 years. That's an assurance that doesn't exist now, Tomassetti said.
Valley View employees said that if the county sells the home, the facility will change.
"I've worked at for-profit nursing homes, and they're not like this," said Crystal Burgoon, a licensed practical nurse. "The level of care our residents get here, the amount of activities they have, the way we're all a family, you just don't get that when the bottom line is making a profit."
Service Employees International Union representative Nathan Williams said union members will prepare another petition to present to commissioners and encourage others to contact commissioners and attend their meetings. The union, in October, collected 4,000 names on a petition in opposition to the sale.
Frank Rosenhoover, chairman of the Blair County Democratic Party, added his support and criticized the county for failing over several years to fully fund its pension plan. County leaders said that has grown to a $30 million liability, with about a third applicable to Valley View Home.
"For the last 12 years, it's the county that unfunded its pension plan." Rosenhoover said.
Now it's these people - the employees, the residents and the community - being asked to pay the price, he said.
Altoona Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.