Hope Creek debate divides taxpayers, passionate supporters

Emotional debate over the future of Hope Creek Care Center has already divided passionate supporters and tax-weary homeowners.

One thing that remains undisputed, though, is the quality of care at Hope Creek.

For nearly three years, Merwin Baker has called the county-owned care facility home. The East Moline location allows Margaret, his wife of 67 years, to visit every day.

Each night, one of his 11 children is able to put him to bed.

“It was never our plan to allow my mom or my dad to go to a nursing home,” daughter Chris Baker tearfully said.

But when Merwin could no longer walk, and needed memory care as well, Hope Creek became a blessing for the family.

“It’s hard to see him like he is, but he’s treated so well, and that – that makes all the difference in the world,” said Chris Baker.

“Financially, it’s a struggle.”

Quality care, though, comes at a high price.

Rock Island County Board member Steve Meersman chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, and he’ll be the first to tell you that Hope Creek is in dire financial straits.

“Right now, financially, it’s a struggle,” Meersman said.

Many of Hope Creeks problems stem from the State of Illinois, which is supposed to reimburse county-owned nursing homes for the care of Medicaid residents. Meersman says the state short-changes Hope Creek nearly $9,000 a day, though, for the care of those residents.

Additionally, Meersman said the nursing home industry has documented a nearly four-percent annual increase in costs like food, utilities, and other supplies. The reimbursement rate for Medicare and Medicaid, though, has been flat for almost four years.

Rock Island County has already taken out a $1 million loan to cover day-to-day costs at Hope Creek. That will be paid off when property taxes are collected in June, but Meersman admits the problem will be far from solved.

“We may have to turn right around and borrow those same monies again,” said Meersman.

In the November 2014 election, voters will be asked to raise the tax levy for Hope Creek from .1 percent to .25 percent. That would bring in nearly $3.2 million more each year for the care center. Currently, taxpayers spend about $2 million a year on the home.

“It will give us that window of four years to, hopefully, make changes in the way the operation is,” Meersman said, “and, hopefully, reimbursement from the state and the feds will change.”

If the referendum is successful, taxpayers would see about $50 in additional annual property taxes on a $100,000 home. If the referendum were to fail, Meersman said “severe changes” would need to be considered.

“That could mean anywhere from a lease to a sale, or whatever. We would have a window of about ten-and-a-half months to start making those decisions,” said Meersman.

Get more of our coverage of ideas to help fund Hope Creek – click here.

Lessons from Mercer County

Despite opposition to a potential sale of Hope Creek, just south of the Quad Cities in Aledo, Illinois, leaders call a similar move “absolutely” a good thing.

In 2013, Genesis Health System bought the Mercer County Nursing Home and the adjoining hospital from the County for $2.25 million.

“Soon after we came on board, we were able to turn around the operations financially, move it from a loss to a positive,” said Ted Rogalski, administrator at the hospital, now called Genesis Medical Center – Aledo.

Four years prior, in 2009, Genesis began managing the county’s hospital. Since then, the hospital has gone from a $700,000 annual loss to an average annual margin of $500,000. Two years later, Genesis began managing the nursing home as well.

After the sale was finalized, Genesis began pouring nearly $12 million into renovations at the hospital, and upgrading the nursing home as well. Day-to-day operations at the nursing home, now called Genesis Senior Living, remained largely unchanged throughout the sale.

“As a rule, probably 95 percent of the employees chose to stay and wanted to stay; and we wanted them to stay because we have excellent employees,” said Myron Higgins, administrator at Genesis Senior Living.

Ted Pappas, chair of Mercer County’s finance committee, agrees that the sale was a good move for the county.

“It’s clearly a quality of care benefit,” said Pappas.

Pappas admits, though, that the anticipated tax breaks for Mercer County residents are largely yet to be seen, as the Board has used any extra cash from the sale to balance its budget and fully fund its retirement fund.

“It was hoped that the sale of the nursing home and hospital would have a direct and immediate impact for the property tax-payers of Mercer County,” said Pappas. “The reality is that it’s going to take a number of years.”

Pappas and Genesis leaders agree, though, that county-owned healthcare facilities are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and that the best chance for success is diversifying or joining a large company that also offers assisted living, at-home care, etc.

“I think any stand-alone nursing home in the future has great storm clouds ahead of it,” said Pappas.

Filling a need

Meersman, though, has heard all those arguments before, and insists Hope Creek still feels a need in the community.

“There are a lot of things that government does not belong in, that should belong in the private sector,” said Meersman. “But for me, until the private sector can prove to me that they’ll take care of these residents the way they need to be taken care of, I will fight to keep the home open.”

At any given time, Hope Creek is usually caring for 58-65 percent Medicaid residents, while the rest are a mix of veterans, private pay, hospice care, and Medicare.

Private homes typically take a much smaller percentage of Medicaid residents.

“A for-profit home, the quality of care, I can’t say it’s any better or any worse than that. But what can change is the payer mix,” said Meersman.

That’s exactly what worries Chris Baker the most: if there would still be room for her father if Hope Creek were sold.

“If the state assisted Dad in finding another home, if this closed, or if they leased it…. Where would they move him? It could be Galesburg, it could be Peoria, and we couldn’t be a part of his everyday life,” said Baker.

And there does appear to be one thing that people on both sides can agree on: that the debate over Hope Creek’s future is likely just beginning.

35 comments

  • david

    Why is quality of care a concern? Until a couple months ago there were NUMEROUS private nursing homes rated higher than Hope Creek. I would argue that private homes have a higher quality of care than public ones. I have had numerous talks with employees at Hope Creek and I would not want some of thsee people watching my dog! I know several employees that are extremely hot headed, talk like a sailor, and couldn’t pass a drug test if their life depended on it!

    • david nipper

      in other words they are union democrats that you hate so much and want to destroy. you are a phony.

  • david nipper

    of course those private home voices are going to say they are better and hope creek should be sold. what else would they say. and for the one tea party idiot to say we should get out of the home business, i suppose he also supports paul ryans plan to end medicare for all americans. we dont care what he thinks.

    • jamie

      It’s not one tea party idiot that wants it closed. It’s a majority of the people in the county.

  • david

    Mr. Nipper, it’s not private homes that are saying they are better it’s the government inspectors who inspect every home in the state and then say which homes scored the highest. Hope Creek has historically been rated lower than numerous private homes around! Also, if quality of care is of the utmost importance why haven’t the employees that abused the patients there last winter been fired?

  • jamie

    Sounds to me like Mr. Nipper is one of the hot headed Hope Creek employees you were talking about in your first statement. I agree privatizing is the way to go!

  • tj

    David Nipper who is a phony? You sound like an uninformed individual! Quit sspouting off about things you don’t have a clue about!! You are the stereotypical democrat. Gimme gimme gimme you want everyone else’s money because you are too worthless to go earn your own.

  • erik

    It’s time to recognize a bad investment. We need to start cleaning house in Rock Island county.

  • david nipper

    you people will do anything you can to punish this county for voting in a black president. you finally found a way. punish school children and senior citizens get over it. he will be gone soon.

  • david nipper

    amanda, everyone i talked to wants hope creek to stay open. talk to more intelligent people.

  • david nipper

    and tj who will take care of you when you are old and broken down? maybe you will eat a bullet and save the taxpayers money. my guess is you will be a hypocrite, like all of you are, and fight for your life on public aid.

  • david nipper

    everyone of you hypocrites would take taxpayers cash when you can, workmans comp, unemployment benefits, reduced lunches at schools, school loans, child tax credits on tax forms, earned income credits, snap benefits for your kids, disability payments, all taxpayer money. but its wrong to support HOPE CREEK CARE. hypocrites, one and all here.

    • Drewbster

      If the demoncratic politicians in Chicago, I mean Springfield, would pony up their share of the medicaid bill, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      • david nipper

        and i agree with drewbster, what ever that is, pay up illinois, and also take back the stupid bed tax you sorry politicians placed on a non profit that is killing HOPE CREEK CARE. AND TJ, I COULD OUT DEBATE YOU ON THIS FORUM AND SUBJECT IN MY SLEEP. you are tea party slime ball, im a democrat for the people. we help and protect the seniors, you want to end medicare for all. sick thinking chief.

      • Drewbster

        Dims are NOT for the people, they’re for themselves. Benazak charges ‘the people’ to drive to work. RICO worker charges ‘the people’ $20K for overtime in 1 year. Keep on voting for the Dims, dim-wit.

  • david

    Mr. Nipper, thank you for showing everyone else on this page what hot heads the employees at Hope Creek are! You just validated everything I said in my original statement. I appreciate your help in showing people what kind of scum works at Hope Creek!!!!

  • david nipper

    your welcome david, i just reread your original comment and couldnt stop laughing. hope creek was rated on 4 areas and received 5,5,4,5, a five star nursing home . so friendship manor came in first, good for them , hope creek was 3 rd or 4th. 8 private homes were worse. of course you didnt mention that in your lies. i see you didnt deny the hypocrite claim. lol. tax time is here, i bet you took all the tax credits and deductions on the taxpayers dime. bet you took a check that didnt belong to you hypocrite. many workers at hope creek make 12 dollars an hour and live in poverty like the residents, of course you, the tea party slime, live such a moral life, i would love to look at your life. be a man and tell this group how many of the above checks from the taxpayers have you cashed. BE A MAN, oh wait, you’re are tea party, sorry, slime is not a man.

  • david

    Actually david, I said “historically” meaning in the past. I understand big words confuse you so I will try to keep this simple just for you. Since the new Hope Creek was built it has not had as high of a rating by the government as a lot of the private homes around! Today, hope Creek has its highest rating it has ever had which as YOU said still isn’t as good as several of the private homes in the area! Also, I asked about why the employees that abused the patients there last winter are still employed and no one has answered me yet. I am not exactly sure what my taxes have to do with this but yes I took all my deductions I had available to me if that makes me a bad person I’m sorry. I still wrote a check out of my personal account for my fair share of taxes. I haven’t “ashed” any checks from the government. I’m not exactly sure where u r going with that one.

    • Drewbster

      The reality of this matter is we here in the QC’s have a large senior population. Everyone new this was coming, but no one addressed the issue. Well now here we are. I think we should keep Hope Creek open. Where else are they going to go? We will all get to that point sometime in OUR lives. The financing needs to be well thought out. I don’t mind paying a little more in sales tax so our Seniors have a place to spend their final days. Yes, the operation needs to be monitored and costs verified to prevent fraud and graft. It sure beats taking a walk in the woods on a cold winter day as the Indians use to do.

  • david nipper

    im going here, taxpayers money pays for hope creek along with private insurance, you object to even one penny of your county taxes going for the home, yet if you need bailed out, workers comp, unemployment benefits, some commentors on here will be on snap at one time, see taxpayers funds for your benefit you will except, or YOUR mom and dad are on medicare, thats fine, but for a five star nursing home, well, not so much. and i do believe i said all of you on this page, wait , listen, the silence of the rest of the tea party dirt here. they know they take taxpayers money as often as they can get it, school loans, child care. yet condemn the poor and disabled and the workforce that cares for them. i sure hope you dont have parents and grandparents who see you like this. its shameful. you forgot to mention that hope creek, historically has been in the top five all these years and ranked a hell of a lot better then 3/4 ers of the private homes here. guess you forgot that part, nice math, you should try it.

  • Tom

    David nipper maybe its me but im having a very hard time trying to understand what your saying

  • David

    Its not just you tom. I can’t begin to decipher his disaster of sentence fragments either. The little bit I can decipher is just plain wrong. Hope Creek has not been in the top 5 until just recently. I would love to set him straight on some other things but I am not sure what he is trying to say.

  • Jamie

    Lol really David Nipper? Everyone just ignore him he is a real life Al Bundy. Except rather than selling womens shoes he wipes old womens cracks, and come November 4th he won’t even be able to do that anymore lololol

  • david

    Drewbster you are exactly right there is a definite need to keep hope Creek open. My opinion is we should privatize it like mercer county did. It keeps the home running unchanged and keeps our tax money freed up for other uses in the county.

    • Drewbster

      I can agree with that David, but, are you thinking, purchased by Genesis? Wasn’t it them that bought Mercer County’s nursing home?

  • david nipper

    wow must have struck a nerve with jamie there, must have seen themselves in the paragragh above, a hypocrite who takes, but complains of others. see how they talk of seniors, disgusting evil people you are. cant you see the poison your racism has caused in you. good bye, seek jesus before its to late.

  • david

    Drewbster yes if genesis wants to purchase it that would be great. I don’t care who purchases it as long as they are a good upstanding company and will continue to run it well into the future. I have said for months now that in my opinion that is the best option. It obviously has worked out very well for mercer county. Mr. Nipper I think you need to purchase a dictionary. When did race get brought into this? While your looking that up look up hypocrite as well.

  • david

    Also, who are you to tell people to find god when last night you were telling the same people to eat a bullet. Now that is a hypocrite.

  • david

    Lol no I’ll just go to mercer county where they privatized their home. Better care and the county tax payers didn’t get robbed so that I can be there.

  • david

    Like I said earlier thankyou for helping me to expose the mentality and attitude of the Hope Creek employees. No one has ever said anything about the abuse that occurred at Hope Creek last winter even though I have asked on here several times. The employees have done a great job of sweeping that under the carpet. Protect your union brothers not your elders. You fell into my plan perfectly and I really do appreciate your assistance. This November when hope Creek doesn’t get the tax increase we will see who the real winner in this argument is. It will all be OK though you can always have a bullet for dinner.

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