Beaver commissioners sell county nursing home to private New Jersey company

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Friendship Ridge, a 600-bed nursing home owned by Beaver County for decades, is now in private hands.

County commissioners announced Thursday that the facility has been sold to Comprehensive HealthCare Management Services LLC of New Jersey for $37.5 million.

"It's a great day for Beaver County," Commissioner Dennis Nichols said.

"We are going to kill ourselves to make this a premiere nursing home," said Mordy Lahasky, one of the principals behind Comprehensive.

The county started looking for a buyer for the home -- the third-largest in the state -- in May because officials said it was running at a $5 million to $7 million annual deficit.

The county received 65 inquiries and accepted bids from five. Comprehensive and its affiliates, which operate 40 nursing homes in five states, won the bidding and will close on the property March 1, having agreed to make the first payment next week of $8 million.

Company representatives said they intend to retain the majority of the more than 500 employees who work at the facility, upgrade the building and make patient care top priority. Mr. Lahasky said Friendship Ridge was attractive for a purchase because of its size, its location next to a hospital and the fact that it already has such features as an in-house dialysis center.

"We really love this facility," Mr. Lahasky said. "We want to make sure that the focus is on the patient."

A representative of the employees' union, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, didn't return a call Thursday.

When the proposed deal with Comprehensive was first made public in August, the union said it would work with the new owners but remained opposed to privatization.

Representatives said then that they had put together a proposal cutting $5 million from the home's budget and accused the commissioners of not working with SEIU to put that plan into effect.

The union also expressed anger that the commissioners weren't more forthcoming about the deal, a charge also leveled by the Beaver County Times in a court fight over a right-to-know request for details of the sale.

The commissioners said that the negotiations were difficult and making them public could have threatened the deal.

Now that it's done, the county said Friendship Ridge will no longer be a drain on county taxpayers and instead start to generate tax dollars for the first time.

The new owners are expected to contribute about $40,000 a year to Brighton Township, where the facility is located, in addition to $100,000 to the county and $260,000 to the Beaver Area School District.

Torsten Ove: or 412-231-0132.

Torsten Ove: or 412-263-1510. First Published November 21, 2013 12:41 PM

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