Our View | Centre Crest board has right makeup, priorities

It’s early days for the board of directors tasked with turning Centre Crest into a viable nonprofit facility.

But both the board’s makeup and its initial focus on staffing and care should give Centre County residents confidence that the right priorities are driving changes at the nursing home.

Board members and representatives of the management company Complete HealthCare Resources emphasized a determination to sustain Centre Crest as a local asset, starting with quality care for patients and a sound future for the professionals who work there.

And board members aren’t naive about the divisive politics that led to this moment, nor are they deaf to the public criticism of the nonprofit plan adopted by the county commissioners last month.

“When the vote happened, it ceased to be political for me,” said Betsy Boyer, who has served as a United Way liaison with the Centre Crest Auxiliary United Way.

Boyer is president of the new Centre Crest board, which will oversee the nursing home under the banner Centre Care Inc.

“We want to do our best for the staff and residents of Centre Crest,” Boyer said in a meeting with the Centre Daily Times.

The county commissioners have pointed to Mount Nittany Health as a model for nonprofit success, especially in providing health-related care. Three representatives of the hospital system are on the nine-member Centre Crest board: Mount Nittany President and CEO Steve Brown; chief financial officer Rich Wisniewski; and Mount Nittany Health board member and former board chairman Carl Raup.

Brown said the missions of the hospital and nursing home are a good fit: “It’s about the patient.”

“A nonprofit must put any profits back into itself and its services,” Raup noted, adding that the leadership group has no intention of losing money while operating the home.

Other board members include individuals with ties to Centre Crest and those with expertise in areas such as nursing, business development, community fundraising and banking.

Board members said there has been unrest among staff at Centre Crest as the shift to nonprofit has played out, and some turnover.

CHR’s Cathy Otto said negotiations have begun with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local union to finalize contracts and ease pressure.

“I think the highest priority is stabilization of staffing,” Otto said, adding: “There have been some fears because of the changes.”

Otto expressed confidence that Centre Crest’s percentage of patients supported by Medicaid will increase. Centre Crest is typically around 70 percent, while some other CHA facilities have more than 80 percent of their patients supported by Medicaid, she said.

County leaders have said a reduced Medicaid reimbursement rate has hamstrung them in their attempts to keep the home running under government control, and that a nonprofit would be eligible for higher reimbursement levels.

Board members will also be looking to break down the stereotypes that Centre Crest is primarily an end-of-life facility and that it only serves people in low-income situations.

The board’s to-do list is long, but includes meaningful first-stage priorities for the nursing home. Topics such as developing an entirely new facility will be addressed in due time.

We found this group of individuals to be motivated by duty to the community and focused on those most directly affected by changes at Centre Crest: staff and patients, and the residents of the county.

Whether making the nursing home a nonprofit was the best choice remains to be seen.

The board seems to understand that the best way to win over critics of the plan and move beyond the current political turmoil is to fulfill its promises to preserve and enhance the services Centre Crest provides.

“A lot of people are relying on this to be successful,” board member Sally Walker said.

“There’s pressure, but it’s good pressure.”

We wish the members of this new board well.

If success is realized at Centre Crest, it will be the product of their diverse skill sets and experiences and their shared energy and vision.

People across Centre County are depending on them to succeed.