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‘Heart-wrenching’: the only Jewish nursing home in the Harrisburg area to be sold

Patriot-News - 1/13/2022

The Campus of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg, a non-profit facility which has served senior citizens in the Harrisburg area for 45 years, is being sold to a New Jersey-based real estate investment company.

The board of directors of the Jewish Home announced this week that it has agreed to sell the facility to Tryko Partners, citing fiscal challenges related to Medicaid reimbursement rates and COVID-19.

The campus, located in the 4000 block of Linglestown Road in Lower Paxton Township, includes a 138-bed skilled nursing home facility, and a 58-unit independent living personal care apartment building, known as The Residence.

Richard Spiegelman, president of the board of directors, called the decision to sell the facility “heart-wrenching.”

“I think to sum it up for all of us, it was something that was painful but necessary,” he said.

Spiegelman cited fiscal challenges, particularly the increasing gap between Medicaid reimbursement rates and the cost of caring for residents, as a reason for the sale.

“The costs of caring for residents exceeds those reimbursements by about $100 a day per resident,” he said. And services for two-thirds of the skilled nursing residents are paid for through Medicaid.

These challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic, which imposed significant additional costs associated with protecting residents and staff. COVID-19 also led to a sharp reduction in revenues due to a decline in hospital referrals to skilled nursing facilities.

The Jewish Home has only been filling about 100 of its beds. Officials at the nursing home thought they would be able to build on that number, but then staffing shortages hit the nursing care industry leaving the Jewish Home unable to increase its number of residents.

Not all of units at The Residence are being filled either.

All the issues combined, some that have been building for years, others brought on by the pandemic have been costing the nursing facility thousands with no end in sight.

“We were in in a situation where we were hemorrhaging $250,000 a month going back to December 2020,” Spiegelman said.

More than 200 people work at the campus although a number of workers are contracted and not directly employed by the Jewish Home. Many of them are expected to keep their new jobs under the new ownership although a few positions including those of the current CEO and the comptroller will be eliminated, Spiegelman said.

Spiegelman said the facility will be renamed following the completion of the sale in March. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Jewish Home was founded in 1977 as a 60-bed skilled nursing facility intended to provide care to ill, infirm and elderly Jewish people in the greater Harrisburg area.

“It’s been a source of pride and comfort to the Jewish Community over many years,” Spiegelman said..

Tryko has agreed to maintain the fully kosher kitchen at the facility under rabbinic supervision through March 2023, and after that has agreed to provide kosher dining options for any residents that requests them. Tryko has pledged to continue to provide Jewish programming and religious services.

The Jewish population at the facility has decreased over the years. About 10% of the residents in the skilled nursing home are Jewish. While overall about 20% of the residents on the campus are Jewish.

“We’ve always been welcoming to residents outside of the Jewish community as well,” Spiegelman said.

Other Jewish nursing homes have also been sold or have closed in recent years. The Charles Morris Home in Pittsburgh closed, and the Abramson Center for Jewish Life in suburban Philadelphia sold its skilled nursing facility. Jewish nursing homes are still in operation in Scranton and Baltimore.

The proceeds from the sale of the Jewish Home will be used to establish a new fund, under the umbrella of the Jewish Community Foundation of Central Pennsylvania, that will support a number of Jewish-based programs and services for the senior population of the greater Harrisburg Jewish Community.

In the midstate, Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries recently sold another nonprofit nursing home, Frey Village in Middletown, which was sold to a for-profit company. Leaders with that organization called it a “difficult decision” and said it was looking to reduce the organization’s reliance on government reimbursement.

Bob Bertolette, interim president and CEO of LeadingAgePA, a trade association in Silver Spring Township that represents more than 370 senior housing, health care, and community services across the state including the Jewish Home, says that the problems that the Jewish Home encountered aren’t uncommon.

“I would say were in a middle of a perfect storm in our industry,” he said.

One of the major problems is the difference that Medicaid reimburses facilities. Bertolette said there is typically about an $82 to $100 shortfall. He said that the Medicaid reimbursement rates have not changed since 2013 and that’s something his organization is pushing for the state to increase.

“We don’t have sufficient funds from the government,” he said.

He said that staffing shortages in nursing homes are serious.

“It’s so severe that the facilities are either closing down units or not accepting people from the hospital,” he said.

In the case of the Jewish Home, Bertolette said they were fortunate to find a buyer instead of shutting down altogether.

“Hopefully they (Tryko Partners) will continue with the quality of care as they indicated they will,” he said.

You can follow Daniel Urie on twitter @DanielUrie2018 and you can like him on Facebook.

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