Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe | On Centre Crest: Still questions, but time to move forward

June 22, 2013 

When I ran for Centre County commissioner in 2011, my slogan was “Fresh Perspective.”

We’ve all seen political slogans that make our eyes roll, but I truly hope to live up to mine. My resolve was put to the test at the last Board of Commissioners meeting.

Last Tuesday, I gave a thorough, intensely-researched presentation. I had hoped that the public could have been given more time to analyze my proposals and respond with feedback, but that wasn’t the case.

Soon after, a vote was called and made — Centre Crest will be transitioned to a nonprofit, against my recommendations.

Part of me wants to take my fellow commissioners to task and “make them pay,” but what good will that do? Obstructing the transfer of the nursing home may make for good politics, but does it make for good governance? And how would it help the residents, their families, the staff and volunteers?

Politics make us do strange things at times. Every elected official has had the temptation to take a position because it’s politically beneficial or convenient.

I celebrate those who have made tough decisions when it wasn’t the easy thing to do, but I can’t say that I’ve never looked at an issue through political lenses. I do my best to make a decision based on the common good, not political expedience.

At this point the common good is not to prolong the fight against transitioning Centre Crest to a nonprofit, but to make sure it happens in the best way possible. Though I don’t agree with the position my fellow commissioners took last Tuesday, we must move forward.

We all have that choice every day. Do we wish ill on those that have slighted us and cling to the past? Or do we forgive transgressions and continue on to a better future?

In politics, the first course is easier. This business is built for that track. The latter is more difficult, requiring us to acknowledge that things did not go our way.

I stand ready to work with Commissioners Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos to improve Centre Crest as a nonprofit. There is much more work to do. We need to really dig into the financial analysis prepared by the consultants we hired and make sure the numbers work.

Does the proforma include enough money for an increase in nursing staffing to bring Centre Crest up to an 8:1 resident-to-nurse ratio? What happens if there are additional cuts in Medicaid and/or Medicare? What will the relationship between the Board of Commissioners and the nonprofit board of directors look like?

I call on all residents to take an active role in helping us find answers to these questions.

I believe that my 21 tours of nursing homes around the state yielded good ideas for Centre Crest. While they may not be considered for a county-operated facility, I hope the nonprofit board decides to include some of my proposals.

The ultimate goal is to construct a new building in the near future, but some modifications to the current facility are needed until that’s completed. Three suggestions that I hope they consider are implementing an internal nurse aide training program; constructing an outpatient rehabilitation entrance to increase revenue; and making needed investments and renovations to the resident rooms.

According to my fellow commissioners, much of the reason why Centre Crest needed to be transitioned to a nonprofit was that the state fixed the Medicaid reimbursement rates for Centre Crest at an unreasonably low amount.

It’s frustrating to see our state government fail to respond to our needs and not fix a broken system, and put its most vulnerable citizens and taxpayers at a disadvantage. It’s even more troublesome to see the Pennsylvania General Assembly — not to mention the U.S. Congress — continue their mudslinging, name-calling and tit-for-tat.

Here in Centre County, I’m committed to putting aside differences and to working together to improve the lives of our residents, no matter which course we take.

Michael Pipe is a member of the Centre County Board of Commissioners.

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