Nanticoke Health Services sells LifeCare at Lofland Park

By Lynn R. Parks

Nanticoke Health Services, parent company of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford, plans to sell its skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, LifeCare at Lofland Park. The prospective buyer is Genesis HealthCare, owner of the Seaford Center nursing home in Seaford. Steve Rose, Nanticoke president and CEO, said that NHS has been working toward the sale for more than a year. The board approved singing a letter of intent with Genesis at its meeting last week.

Rose would not say what the purchase price is. But he did say that across the nation, facilities like LifeCare sell for from $70,000 to $80,000 per bed. LifeCare has 110 beds.

Genesis, which has more than 200 skilled nursing and assisted-living facilities along the eastern seaboard, from North Carolina to Maine, plans to keep both LifeCare and the Seaford Center open. It is not uncommon for Genesis to operate several nursing centers within a geographic region, said executive vice president David Almquist. These sister centers often work very closely together to the benefit of the staff members, the patients and their family members.

In addition to the Seaford Center, Genesis operates the Milford Center and Heritage at Milford in Milford, Heritage at Dover and the Silver Lake Center in Dover, Atrium at Churchman Village and Churchman Village in Newark and Hillside Center in Wilmington. For the past several years, Genesis has contracted to provide the rehabilitation services at LifeCare.

LifeCare would be a strong addition to our network of skilled nursing centers in Delaware, Almquist said. [It] has a strong reputation and would fit well into our network of nursing centers.

Almquist said that Genesis also plans to keep the employees who are there. In the past when we have acquired other nursing centers, we have tried to retain the centers staff, he said. It is our hope to have LifeCares employees as part of our Genesis team.

Rose said that Nanticoke is not selling LifeCare because the nursing home is doing poorly financially. In fact, he said, LifeCare is breaking even.

Rather, the sale was prompted by Nanticokes realization that both LifeCare and the hospital need major renovations. LifeCare, built in 1992, doesnt have a laundry room.

It also doesnt have a kitchen; meals are prepared at the hospital and trucked to the nursing home. That is not a satisfactory situation for the residents, Rose said.

Those people live there, thats their home, and they should be able to eat when they want to, he said. If they want an English muffin at 10:30 in the morning, they should be able to get it. The rehabilitation rooms in LifeCare also need a facelift, Rose said.

Genesis plans to do renovation work at LifeCare, Almquist said. I think that it is likely that improvements will be made, including the construction of a kitchen and a laundry, he said. Early estimates indicate that we may make a considerable investment in improvements at the center if the transaction is complete.

As for improvements at the hospital, we have a long list, Rose said. Patient rooms are small, something that impacts care as well as patient satisfaction, he said. Nanticoke would also like to construct a medical office building to accommodate physicians whom it hires.

(It took the first steps toward that with the request to the city of Seaford that a 5-acre parcel be subdivided from the land on which the Mears Health Campus building sits. The city council approved that request at its Nov. 22 meeting.)

Rose said that a financial committee set up by the board will decide how to spend the money that the sale of LifeCare brings in. NHS board president Kent Peterson said that its important that Nanticoke focus on what it does best, provide acute care.

We know that were better off selling the nursing home to Genesis, because providing skilled nursing care is what they do, and focusing on acute care, because thats what we do, he said. This way, we keep our eye on quality and that benefits the whole community.

In addition to Genesis, Nanticoke also approached Peninsula United Methodist Homes, then operator of the Methodist Manor House in Seaford, about buying LifeCare. But at the time, PUMH was involved in the process of handing control of the Manor House over to ACTS, a Pennsylvania-based not-for-profit company that took over operations in May 2010, and wasnt interested in buying the nursing home, Rose said.

Rose said that he expects Nanticoke and Genesis to sign a purchase agreement around the end of the year. Following that, Genesis will have 60 days to inspect the facility.

Because Nanticoke is a non-profit entity and Genesis is for-profit, the sale also requires the approval of the Delaware Attorney Generals office. The AGs office requires a 180-day notice before the finalization of such a sale.

Rose said he has no doubt that selling LifeCare is the right thing for Nanticoke. Even so, he said that there is some sadness that comes with the decision.

The people who work there are part of our Nanticoke family, he said. Many have worked there for a long time and are dedicated people. We know that this is the right thing, but at the same time its kind of bittersweet.

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