On February 6, 2019, Grand Traverse County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution declaring that The Grand Traverse Pavilions skilled nursing facility is not for sale. This action caps two years of controversy about the sale of this community treasure. Kudos to commissioner Sonny Wheelock for proposing the resolution after discussion of the issue.
The GT County Commission had recently received a letter from Pritok Capital inquiring about buying the property, resurrecting the issue that most of us thought had been buried. Last year’s discussion of the possible sale resulted in legal opinions stating that The Pavilions couldn’t be sold until the discharge of bonds that are set to expire in 2030. But of course, Pritok Capital was undaunted and pressed their inquiry.
We should be encouraged that the County Commission was willing to make such a public declaration, but we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Commissioners change, and circumstances change. I fully believe that the only reason that the Pavilions sale didn’t proceed, possibly to consummation, was because of the tremendous amount of public outcry that made it clear that a sale simply would not be tolerated. Those who spoke out at the February 6 meeting upheld that tradition.
I’m relieved that this blog entry is a cautionary tale, rather than a call to arms. We must remain vigilant. As the Washington Post puts so well, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. Below are the remarks that I made at the commission meeting:
I’m commenting on the possibility of the Pavilions being sold. I’m a retired public-sector administrator and, due to family circumstances, I’m someone who has gotten to know the residents and employees of a Skilled Nursing Facility over nearly 10 years of weekly visits.
There’s a long history of counties caring for their aged, disabled and indigent residents. Why? Not only because of the need, but more so because of the sense of community and of shared responsibility; that we’re in it together, to the end of life. Community ownership also helps to assure local control and local accountability. Residents of the community feel strongly that when it comes to the care of their friends and family, they want direct accountability.
I’ve spent a lot of time with residents of the nursing home I visit; with people like my sister-in-law, who suffered a tragic medical mishap a decade ago; with neighbors, local entrepreneurs, war heroes, with the poor and the wealthy.
What happens when a publicly-owned nursing home goes private? There’s an effect on the quality of care, and at the same time there’s a loss of local control and accountability. The privately-owned nursing home that I visit has changed hands at least 3 times over the past 4-5 years. Each time, there’s a change of administration, a change of policies, and a change of staff. There’s turmoil, not just with the staff, but for the residents. There’s a jump in employee absences, disruptions in resident care; morale is terrible and good employees simply leave.
What is Pritok Capital’s track record? I did a little research and here’s what I found.
Their website says that:
They purchase properties to lease or sell to existing or new operators.
They “deliver outstanding returns for a select group of passive investors.”
Their investment vehicles (we would call them nursing homes) feature “lucrative quarterly dividends and strong long-term appreciation potential.”
Pritok has only been in business since 2012, but in those few years they’ve bought 14 nursing homes and they’ve already sold 6 of them.
Medicare.gov rates nursing homes on a variety of measures, with the ratings ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 5. Of the 6 Pritok-purchased facilities that I could identify, the average overall rating was 1.3. The overall rating of The Pavilions? 5.
For those of you who like to focus on the results, Pritok Capital should give you pause. Their results would be horrible to our community, though maybe not to their investors.
The Pavilions gives top-flight care, it’s connected to the community, and there’s local control and accountability. When I think about the possible sale of the Pavilions to Pritok Capital, with their record of flipping facilities, selling them to “Regional Operators”, and their bottom-of-the-barrel patient care, I’m simply appalled at the prospect that the County Commission would even give them the time of day.
If you really care about Grand Traverse County and its residents, please, just say “no”.