Hospital eyes sale of Heritage Place

Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2005

Heritage Place in Soldotna is up for sale, and Central Peninsula General Hospital is looking into buying the Kenai Peninsula Borough 60-bed nursing facility.

Hospital Chief Executive Officer David Gilbreath said Banner Health Systems, owners of Heritage Place, and CPGH have "a memorandum of understanding that outlines the steps to reach a community decision about this purchase."

"If this sale takes place, co-location of skilled nursing services with the acute services of the hospital makes a lot of sense," Gilbreath said.

"It would optimize care to residents who, oftentimes, use both acute and long-term care services," he said.

The decision to purchase the $3 million facility would need to be made by the borough. Gilbreath said the $3 million figure is Banner's initial asking price, and a final selling price has not yet been determined.

The CPGH Inc. board of directors is studying whether to recommend the purchase of Heritage Place, which would be integrated with the operations of CPGH. The arrangement is favorable, according to Heritage Place Administrator Dennis Murray, because "it provides a better pathway for the continuum of care from acute to long-term care."

Murray said community ownership of Heritage Place would secure the long-term survivability of the nursing facility.

According to Gilbreath, taxpayers in the hospital service area would not be burdened by the purchase because Alaska law provides that capital and operating costs would be reimbursed through Medicaid. Operating revenues are expected to cover the cost of financing the purchase, he said.

Normally 90 percent of Heritage Place's residents are assisted by Medicaid, and currently only three of the facility's 54 residents are paying privately for their care.

Heritage Place has 95 employees, 15 of whom are registered nurses and 51 are certified nursing assistants, according to Murray. Gilbreath said if the acquisition is completed, CPGH intends to hire all the Heritage Place employees who are in good standing at the time of the transition.

Wages and benefits would be comparable to those provided to current CPGH employees, he said.

Although hospital nurses are represented by a labor union, Heritage Place nurses currently are not. Gilbreath said Heritage Place nurses would have the option of voting to join a union.

The hospital does not anticipate making any wholesale changes in staffing, he said.

"We're currently the only nonaligned nursing facility in the state," Murray said. He explained that Heritage Place is a free standing facility and not part of the local hospital.

Elsewhere on the Kenai Peninsula, Providence Seward Wesley Care and the Long Term Care unit at south Peninsula Hospital in Homer are co-located with hospitals.

If the borough purchases the nursing facility and it is operated with CPGH, because the hospital would retain the Heritage Place employees, residents would continue to maintain the personal relationships with the caregivers they have come to value, according to Gilbreath and Murray.

Discussions of the acquisition are in the early stages, Gilbreath said, and the borough administration and the hospital board are examining the advantages.

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