Centre Crest Nursing Home announced last summer that it will be moving into a new facility in 2020. While it’s good news for residents and staff, it’s coming with an unintended consequence: a financial hit to an already struggling Bellefonte EMS.
Centre Crest has been located in the Bellefonte area for about 80 years, but its new state-of-the-art $39 million facility is being built in College Township.
“We’re happy that they’re getting a new facility. I think it’s much deserved,” said Scott Rhoat, Bellefonte EMS executive director and chief. “I think the patients will benefit from it, and the patients will like it. I think the staff will like it; it’ll probably make their job more efficient and better. We just wish it would’ve been still within our coverage area so that we were able to help provide services when needed.”
Bellefonte EMS responds to, on average, 150-170 calls per year from Centre Crest, Rhoat said. With Centre Crest moving out of the EMS agency’s service area, it’ll be a loss of about $70,000 in gross revenue each year.
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That’s about 7 to 9 percent of Bellefonte EMS’ annual budget, he said.
Right now, Bellefonte EMS has a balanced budget, and it’s been that way over the past 11 years that Rhoat has served as executive director. He said they’ve managed that by taking steps to become more efficient and reduce expenses — but he said there’s not much left to cut. EMTs who work there already only make $10.40 an hour, on average. Most have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.
Centre Crest’s move “will definitely throw us, our budget, into the red,” Rhoat said.
“While leaving our long-time home in Bellefonte was not an easy decision, we found it was the only way we could continue to provide a home for everyone in Centre County. The oldest portion of our current building is 78 years old and would not pass new building regulations when the state begins enforcement in 2022. Our new facility will surpass even the strictest regulations. Additionally, it will meet the changing demands of the county’s population for decades to come with larger rooms, more programming, enhanced food service and greater personalized care,” said Andrew Naugle, Centre Crest’s administrator, in a statement.
There are several bills in the Pennsylvania legislature that might bring a bit of relief to financially stressed EMS providers across the state, but Rhoat is skeptical about them getting passed this year.
Rhoat said he’s talked to the nine municipalities — Bellefonte, Milesburg, Unionville and Benner, Marion, Union, Boggs, Huston and Howard townships — that Bellefonte EMS serves all or a portion of about the need for their financial support.
“Nobody wants to step up to the plate and be the first one to say: ‘Yep, we’re gonna give you money,’” Rhoat said.
He said he doesn’t want to get to the point when Bellefonte EMS has $50 and is going out of business to ask for help.
“It’s less expensive, for everyone, to prop up a weak system, or a system that’s teetering, than it is to rebuild a failed system,” Rhoat said.