When Becky Scheib needed to find a nursing home for her mother, she chose Vincentian Regency, a highly rated facility in McCandless.
But now Mrs. Scheib and families of the 90 residents in the facility are worried about the future. Vincentian Collaborative System, which runs seven area nursing facilities, stopped accepting new patients at Regency in March and closed the first-floor skilled rehabilitation unit.
"We've asked, 'What are your intentions with the building?' We've asked over and over. We don't get any answers," said employee Theresa Pefferman. "Family members are very upset because you walk in there and it is very bleak. You come in on the first floor and there are no residents."
Employees and families held a rally and picnic Friday in North Park to support the facility.
Regency employees are members of the United Steelworkers of America, which ratified a three-year contract with Vincentian on May 1. Regency is the only Vincentian facility where employees are unionized, said Ms. Pefferman, unit president.
Mrs. Scheib and other relatives of patients formed a family council in July in an attempt to get some answers. While they have had several meetings with Vincentian officials, she said they are no closer to having answers.
"Basically, we still don't know what's going on," she said. "We've been told, "Everything's fine. Don't worry. We'll let you know if something is going to happen."
But, she said when they asked about the system's strategic plan, they did not get an answer.
Robin Weber, director of communications for Vincentian, said the company is in the process of determining the needs of all its facilities.
"It is a very challenging health care environment right now. We are trying to look systemwide and taking a comprehensive approach," she said. "We are committed to making the best decisions and we are committed to taking the time to do so. ... The care of our residents is our top priority."
Mrs. Scheib said family members would like more answers.
"I spend $10,000 a month to keep my mom there, and I feel, for that kind of money, they owe me an explanation," she said.
Vincentian Regency was built in 1966 and has 143 beds. It consistently receives a five-star rating (from Medicare), for quality of care in the nursing home industry, employees said. In 2010, it was one of 12 nursing homes statewide awarded an Excellence in Quality Care Award by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Office of Long-Term Living. That honor came with a $40,000 prize.
In June, Ms. Weber told the Post-Gazette that the facility has "potentially substantial" needs for renovation. It was last upgraded in 1995.
Ms. Pefferman said work on updating the sprinkler system, required by law to be done by July 2013, has stopped, and the workmen were sent to other Vincentian facilities. A hiring freeze was implemented, then six union employees and some managers were laid off, she added.
Eileen Rodgers, a nurses aide for 23 years, and other employees went to Harrisburg last week to lobby legislators and meet with the ombudsman for the state Department of Aging.
"My fear is what is going to happen to these residents and the history that we have," Mrs. Rodgers said. "The residents and their families are sticking by us, but I imagine they are getting nervous."
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published October 4, 2012 9:00 AM