Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Possible sale of Berks County’s nursing home raises questions of quality

Source: Nicole C. Brambila and Karen Shuey, Reading Eagle, September 24, 2017
 
While the financial future of county-owned nursing homes might be uncertain, decades of research is fairly clear: a public sale likely means the number of health violations will go up as the quality of resident care goes down. Observed by researchers for roughly two decades, the phenomenon is often the result of the new for-profit owners cutting costs by reducing staff and slashing employee benefits. … These questions loom large as Berks County commissioners are mulling over whether to sell Berks Heim Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bern Township. No decision has been made but the county-owned nursing home faces a projected $3 million deficit. Citing questions of quality and safety, Berks Heim staff and some residents are speaking out against a sale.

… Berks County’s commissioners considered selling Berks Heim two decades ago but opted against it. But then, a public sale in the late 1990s would have been a first in the region. … research also shows that a sale becomes more likely when surrounding counties have divested. Among Berks County’s six contiguous counties, four counties – Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery and Schuylkill – have all sold county-owned nursing homes since 2005. Only officials in two – Chester and Lehigh counties – have held onto their county-owned facilities. … Talk of a potential sale has been met with sharp opposition from residents and staff. … Divesting a county-owned home then will likely disproportionately impact the poor. … And Harrington, a nationally respected expert on nursing home care, has repeatedly found that for-profit facilities receive more deficiencies than nonprofit or government-owned nursing homes. Comparing the 10 largest chains in the U.S. to government-owned facilities, Harrington found in a 2012 study that serious deficiencies in chains were 41 percent higher. A significant reason for the care discrepancy is staffing levels, typically reduced under new ownership to control costs. …

Pennsylvania municipalities and utilities benefit from privatization, says Moody’s

Source: Paul Burton, Bond Buyer, August 15, 2017 (subscription required)
 
Pennsylvania municipalities and regulated investor-owned utilities will benefit from legislation removing hurdles for local governments to sell water and wastewater systems, Moody’s Investors Service said.  Moody’s in a report Tuesday projected more privatizations. Municipalities within the commonwealth Pennsylvania see utility sales as a way to cope with financial distress and sidestep maintenance and compliance costs.  The report examined the $195 million sale of the Scranton wastewater system and the pending $162 million sale of the McKeesport wastewater system outside Pittsburgh to the Pennsylvania-American Water Company. Regulators must still approve the latter. …

Berks County considering privatizing its prison

Source: Ben Allen, WITF, July 13, 2017
 
A midstate county may need a new prison soon, and one of its leaders is considering working with a private operator. Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott says he’s been talking with one of the major players… A new prison could cost more than $100 million. But Commissioner Mark Scott says working with a private prison company could cut those costs and speed up the construction process. …

Pottstown, Phoenixville schools eye tax cost of hospital sale

Source: Evan Brandt, The Mercury, June 16, 2017

… The potential sale of Pottstown and Phoenixville hospitals to a nonprofit company is being viewed with foreboding by business officials in school districts that stand to lose millions in property tax revenues. Officials at both Pottstown and Phoenxiville school districts said the respective hospitals in each borough are their largest property taxpayer. And each said that if the sale of the two hospitals — now owned by the Tennessee-based for-profit Community Health Systems — to the nonprofit Reading Health Systems goes through, they stand to lose as much as $900,000 a year or more in tax revenues. …

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CHS agrees to sell 5 more hospitals in Pennsylvania
Source: Dave Barkholz, Modern Healthcare, May 30, 2017

Struggling Community Health Systems has agreed to sell five hospitals in Pennsylvania to the not-for-profit Reading Health System.  The five hospitals are part of the 30 hospitals that Franklin, Tenn.-based CHS has agreed to sell to reduce a $15 billion debt burden. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  They are169-bed Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, 148-bed Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, 63-bed Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, 151-bed Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville and 232-bed Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in Pottstown. …

State Contractor Accused of Denying Overtime Pay to Thousands of Pennsylvania Home Care Workers

Source: Business Wire, May 12, 2017
 
A major state contractor has been accused of systematically failing to pay overtime wages to thousands of home care workers in Pennsylvania in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court. The suit alleges Public Partnerships, LLC, a subsidiary of the nationwide management consulting firm Public Consulting Group, knowingly refused to pay workers for overtime despite its active role in hiring employees, administering services and issuing paychecks, a violation of federal and state laws governing wages and labor conditions. The issues raised in the case mirror those at the forefront of ongoing litigation throughout the country on joint employers and their responsibilities to their workers. …

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Performance Audit: Department of Public Welfare’s Oversight of Financial Management Services providers
Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of the Auditor General, November 2013

From the press release:
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said an audit of a Department of Public Welfare shows long-term mismanagement of home care worker payroll providers caused undue financial and emotional strain on tens of thousands of people. Thousands of workers had paychecks delayed for up to four months. … Beginning in December 2008, DPW had agreements with 36 different providers for payroll services of home care workers across the state. However, from 2009 through 2012, auditors found that DPW did not adequately monitor these providers resulting in numerous instances of noncompliance with applicable state and federal laws, regulations, and financial services standards by some of the providers. … DPW issued a request for applications in January 2012, and in August 2012 selected the Boston, Mass.-based vendor, Public Partnerships Limited, to provide payroll service statewide. In the short time frame that DPW had to transition 20,000 care recipient files to Public Partnerships Limited, DPW ignored many red flags — including concerns expressed by the vendor — that the new vendor was not fully prepared to pay all direct care workers by the DPW-imposed Jan. 1, 2013 deadline. The audit also found significant flaws in the procurement process used to select Public Partnerships Limited. …
Related:
Audit Summary

School district to retain IT department

Source: Joe Cannon, The Sentinel, March 24, 2017

Information technology services will remain in house in the Mifflin County School District following action taken Thursday by the district’s board of directors. Several members of the IT department were present at Thursday’s meeting to urge the board not to outsource IT services to a company that proposed to do so during the board’s February meeting. IT Director Kevin Cunningham and several of his colleagues gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the advantages of keeping the department within the district. … Cunningham noted the company proposing to do the service, Questeq, a Coraopolis firm that provides outsourced education technology management services to school districts, alluded to the fact that the in-house department doesn’t have the resources to reach out properly. … Cunningham said outsourcing would allow the district to lose ownership in equipment, personnel decisions and hours worked. …

Pottsville Area seeks to outsource buses

Source: Amy Marchiano, Republican Herald, March 17, 2017

The Pottsville Area school board voted Wednesday to potentially outsource its bus transportation. The board voted unanimously for the administration to accept request for proposals regarding busing students. The RFPs are due today and will be opened at 10 a.m. at the Howard S. Fernsler Academic Center. A pre-bid meeting was held at 10 a.m. March 6 at the academic center. Superintendent Jeffrey S. Zwiebel said about five interested companies attended. … Last year, the district also solicited for RFPs and also wanted to sell its fleet of vehicles. Three companies attended a pre-bid meeting last March. The district decided not to outsource busing last year. …

Boyertown considering privatization of services

Source: Holly Herman, Reading Eagle, March 19, 2017

Following a nationwide trend, Boyertown officials are considering a proposal that would privatize water and sewer services. Borough officials have met with Aqua Pennsylvania, which provides service to 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania. Council President Frank J. Deery said the company has inquired about purchasing the town’s water and sewer facilities. … “We are listening to what they have to offer,” Deery said. “It’s too early to say what will happen. We are in the study stages. We are a long way from anything happening.” … Nationally, with aging water and sewer systems in need of maintenance and repair, there’s been a rise in municipalities entering public-private partnerships for all or part of their water supply systems. Currently there are more than 2,000 community water and wastewater facilities across the country being served by these partnerships, according to the National Association of Water Companies. … Loder said the next step would be to determine if the borough wants to sell the two facilities. The borough’s public utilities committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the proposal. Loder said the committee will decide whether to recommend that Council hire an appraiser to determine the price of the facilities.

SRC hires teacher-prep program over protests

Source: Kristen A. Graham, Philly.Com, March 16, 2017

Over protests from the public and concerns from one of its members, the School Reform Commission awarded a contract Thursday to prepare 20 new teachers to work in the Philadelphia School District. The contract amount is relatively small for a district with a multibillion-dollar budget: $150,000 for one year of work. But the approval was controversial because of the vendor: Relay Graduate School of Education, a relatively new teacher-preparation program founded by three charter-school networks. … It submitted an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but failed to gain approval to offer degrees in Pennsylvania. Aspiring teachers will essentially be in a two-year Relay “residency” program, working with a veteran Philadelphia educator their first year and in their own classroom the second year. If they complete the program, they would get a master’s degree from a Relay program in another state. …

Were foster child’s claims about Packers taken seriously?

Source: Peter Hall, Michelle Merlin and Nicole Radzievich, The Morning Call, March 18, 2017

…. The crying bothered Jessica Rotellini Law so much, she said, she told an employee at the agency that placed her, at age 16, in the Packers’ Allentown home with Grace, her toddler brother and a 13-year-old girl in 2006. Law said no one ever followed up with her, and that within days of reporting her concerns, she was sent to live with a family in Montgomery County. Sometime in the next year, the Packers adopted Grace and her brother.

In July, when Grace was 14, Sara Packer, 42, and her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, 44, tortured and killed the girl before dismembering her body and discarding it near a Luzerne County reservoir, police say. They are charged in her homicide.

Law found out about the horrific charges when a detective visited her last month, carrying a picture of Sara Packer. The concerns she said she voiced in 2006 should have raised red flags, social services experts say. Some wondered if Sara Packer’s connection to the social services system — sources have told The Morning Call that Packer started fostering children through The Impact Project when she also was a caseworker there — may have affected the process.

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More counties consider cutting ties with agency connected to Sara Packer
Source: Bo Koltnow, WFMZ-TV, March 8, 2017

Another county cut ties with an area foster care agency after allegations involving alleged abuse by Sara Packer. Lehigh County cut ties with the 26-year-old agency Tuesday. Northampton County did the same Monday. At least two more counties are reviewing contracts with the foster care placement service. On its website, Impact Project boasts about winning the Program of the Year award from Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Judges Commission. Now, the private foster care agency is coming under fire. The agency serves 400 kids per year in nine counties. Northampton County broke the news that Impact allegedly knew about former employee Sarah Packer’s alleged abusive behaviors between 1999 and 2002, and did nothing. Late last year, Packer and her boyfriend were charged in the rape, murder and dismemberment of Packer’s 14-year-old adopted daughter, Grace. .. The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network which licensed the Impact Project calls the news of Packer’s time at the agency alarming, and says it is currently looking into Grace Packer’s history. The Pennsylvania Auditor General announced his office will be auditing the child protection system Tuesday. … Officials at Impact — the for-profit agency that placed Law, Grace and dozens of other foster children in the Packers’ home — would not address Law’s account. …