RICo Board votes to keep Hope Creek, hire private management

The Rock Island County Board has voted to hire a management company to run day-to-day operations at the nursing home.

Rock Island County Board members are bringing in a private company to manage Hope Creek.

On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, the board voted to hire a management company to run day-to-day operations at the nursing home. That private firm will report to a board of volunteer community members with backgrounds in fields like finance, healthcare, insurance and marketing.

Rock Island County will retain ownership of the home, and Hope Creek workers will remain county employees.

Health and Human Services chair Steve Meersman called the decision "a relief."

"We put those two in place, and I think we're going to have a facility that's going to be sustainable for many years to come," said Meersman.

Eighteen board members voted for the management firm option. Two opted for a lease, and four others voted for a sale.

Ron Oelke, who voted to sell the home, said afterward that the county has been down this road before. In 2011, the board ended an agreement with Management Performance Associates, a company that had been running the home for several years.

"I think the main problem was that employees felt like they could go around the management company and come to the county board if they didn't like something that was going on out there. Consequently, it ended up cutting the legs out from under the management company. Well, this is the exact same scenario, except now you have another layer above them," said Oelke.

Oelke also raised concerns about whether political affiliations will impact who sits on the community board.

"My view is it muddies the water, it doesn't clarify things," said Oelke.

Meersman, though, insists this time will be different.

"The management firm, this time, will be reporting to the community-based board. It takes the governance and the politics one step further out of the operations of the nursing home," said Meersman.

The board must now assemble its community panel and issue requests for proposals from management companies.

Meersman said he hopes to have both in place within 90 days.