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Nursing home, personal care center announced

The Wayne Independent - 2/6/2019

Feb. 01--WESTFALL TWP. -- A 70-bed nursing home and 50-bed personal care facility is expected to break ground in March 2019 in Westfall Township. The new project is hailed as helping to meet a critical need for the aged population in Pike County, as well as create 140 jobs.

Senior Health Care Solutions, LLC, ("SHCS") has announced the project following approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Human Services.

Delaware Valley Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center will contain 70 units and Delaware Valley Personal Care Center will have 50 units. The development will be located on a seven acre parcel on Rivers Edge. The site fronts the Heritage Pointe 55-and older community and is adjacent (east of) to the Home Depot Shopping Plaza.

Addressing a need

Michael P. Kelly, President of SHCS, said that the application was filed with the state in April of 2015. He stressed that the state of Pennsylvania had imposed a moratorium on the construction of new nursing home beds UNLESS a need is demonstrated. The process to demonstrate a need is called the "Exception Request Process Application." The project was approved due to the fact that Pike County only has 110-skilled nursing beds in the county which has posed a problem for families having to seek placement outside of Pike County causing a hardship.

Pike County Commissioner Chairman Matthew Osterberg said that the need for further services of this nature exists although there are presently four other facilities in the county, two assisted living centers, a nursing home and another which is both a nursing home and assisted living facility.

SHCS consulted with the Pike County Area Agency on Aging. Kelly stated that the Agency's director, Robin LoDolce, indicated that 50 people a month in Pike County are in need of these facilities, and families often have to look beyond Pike County for accommodations.

Michael Sullivan, who directs the Pike County Economic Development Agency (EDA) and worked to help SHCS find the site, pointed out that Pike County's elderly population is above the national average. Census figures show that across United States, 14.5% are age 65 and over. In Pike County, the same age group makes up 20.5%, or about 11,000 people.

"Anyone who knows anything about it... to try and get a bed for an elderly mother or father or [another] loved one, knows how hard it is,' Sullivan said.

Economic impact

When completed the project will cost approximately $21-million and create 110 full-time and 30 part-time positions with competitive pay and benefits. The jobs will include: Administration and Office; Registered and Licensed Practical Nurses; Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists; Personal Care Attendants; Social Worker's; Dietitians; Dietary Aides; Medial Records; Recreational Activities Staff; Maintenance, Housekeeping and Laundry staff; and Van Drivers. The development will also establish a new real estate tax base, for the county, school district and township.

"We always strive to buy locally and become immersed in community activities and charity events," Kelly added.

Both centers will be a state-of-the-art design and contain many numerous amenities and private rooms, baths, common area's gardens, etc. Kelly stated that the design concept is similar to an upscale hotel that provides health care services delivered by a team of licensed professionals.

The anticipated completion date is in February of 2020.

Osterberg pointed to statistics that show that the 10 top employers in Pike County include only three that are not government entities. They are Woodloch Pines, Wal-Mart and the Lodge at Woodloch. Delaware Valley Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center will be another major, private employer. Osterberg said that more job creators must be found that are from private industry.

Long process

This project has been four years in the making. Some of the hurdles that had to be overcome illustrate difficulties in advancing economic development.

Commissioner Osterberg said that Kelly spoke to the board of commissioners about their proposal in 2015.

He said that they first showed them the county-owned sites on Pike County Boulevard in Blooming Grove Township, which includes the prison and other county facilities. SHCS was interested, Osterberg said, but the county learned that there was not enough sewage capacity at the existing county treatment plant.

He said that the county is now seeking to expand the sewer plant so that the county won't lose a potential developer in the future. Sullivan lamented that it has already taken two years and will be at least another year before the state approves the expansion, stressing that this is an existing plant with little impact on neighbors.

The Pike EDA director added that a legitimate inquiry for environmental impact is understandable, but the time it takes to get state approval is too long. The concern, he said, is that an applicant would "throw up his hands" and look elsewhere.

The commissioner credited Sullivan for working "tirelessly" to find another site with the necessary infrastructure, for the nursing home and personal care facility. Sewer, water and natural gas were needed, and only a few available parcels in Pike County have the necessary utilities in place.

Obtaining the needed state approval for the nursing facility was an arduous process, Sullivan noted. SHCS was turned down at first on the basis that between two of the existing Pike County facilities, there was an 87% vacancy at that time, a reasoning that Sullivan termed as "capricious." SHCS took the ruling to court, and the court ruled in favor of SHCS.

Sullivan noted that the point was that most of the available facility beds in Pike County were "self-pay" meaning that they are available if a resident has secondary insurance aside from Medicare, or can afford the cost without insurance. There were a limited number of beds set aside for "Medicare only" funding. Some of the Pike County EDA board members, he said, had found themselves in that personal predicament of looking for a space for their loved one, and had to look outside the county. These stories were added into testimony at the court hearing.

Westfall Township officials, Sullivan stated, were very helpful in the approval process. One concern the township had is the impact the new facility might have had on the call load for the limited volunteer ambulance services in the area. SHCS responded by arranging with a paid ambulance provider.

Sullivan stated that this points to the need for finding emergency response volunteers, which may be aided by the county's efforts to recruit more local jobs. By requiring less of a commute for Pike County residents, some may find more availability to serve as volunteers.

Important project

Providing more capacity in Pike County to serve the elderly population is important, Osterberg underlined. He said it was nice when people can "age in place" in their own home as long as they can, but if another arrangement is needed, it is desirable for the senior as well as friends and family to be able to find accommodations nearby.

SHCS has a 30-year history of developing and operating skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in Pennsylvania. Based in Scranton, the company to date has completed 24 projects located mainly in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. Their most recent project, in Sayre, Pa., was completed in 2016.

SCHS principals are Michael P. Kelly, MBA, NHA and Susan Keefer, RN, BSN, NHA. They both are long-time residents of northeastern Pennsylvania. SCHS is not affiliated with a chain.

More information about Senior Health Care Solutions LLC is available online at https://seniorhealthpa.com.

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(c)2019 Wayne Independent, Honesdale, Pa.

Visit Wayne Independent, Honesdale, Pa. at www.wayneindependent.com

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