District board chairwoman Joey Allred said Monday, June 3, that the district hopes to complete the sale this year to Rocky Mountain Care, which has corporate offices in Bountiful. The company plans to expand the facility and add more beds to help become profitable, if the sale occurs, she said.
“They contacted us,” Allred said. “They heard we might want to sell and they want to branch out into rural communities.”
Rocky Mountain provides skilled rehabilitation and nursing care at facilities in Clearfield, Heber, Murray, Riverton, Tooele and West Valley as well as Evanston, Wyo.
Attorneys for the district and Rocky Mountain are discussing how payment might be structured to relieve the district of its $4.5 to $4.6 million debt from the 20-year construction bonds, Allred said.
Benson Hathaway, a Salt Lake City attorney representing the healthcare district, said he couldn’t speculate on a possible timetable or whether the sale will ultimately happen.
“I don’t know what’s in their head,” he said of Rocky Mountain. “I don’t know what their thinking is.”
Rocky Mountain spokeswoman Christine Monnat-Kraut did not return calls from The Times-Independent.
Rocky Mountain Care would provide skilled care as well as long-term nursing care, Allred said. Skilled care consists of physical therapy and possibly speech therapy, she said.
Medicare reimburses skilled care at a higher rate than other services, Allred said, and the current lack of that service has prevented the care center from prospering under district ownership. Officials have said the center is losing $40,000 to $50,000 per month.
Discussions were held about possibly adding a 0.5 percent Grand County sales tax to raise money for the care center. However, that option was blocked when healthcare district representatives learned Grand County is not eligible under Utah law to impose that kind of tax.
The district board also discussed proposing legislation to enable Grand County to institute the tax, but that would be a time-consuming process.
“The Legislature won’t meet until mid-February” of 2014, Allred noted.
She emphasized that the sale to Rocky Mountain Care hasn’t been finalized.
“Nothing is set in stone, but they are looking at moving pretty quickly,” Allred said.
Another financial drain for the healthcare district has been the requirement to pay care center employees state of Utah retirement benefits. Rocky Mountain, a not-for-profit firm that is family owned, would not have to offer those benefits.
Allred called that “a huge savings.”
The prospect of Grand County purchasing the care center was raised during some Grand County Council meetings, but the idea never gained traction. Council chairman Gene Ciarus made it clear the county doesn’t have money to take on millions of dollars in debt.
Allred said that, even if the county were to buy the facility, it would still have to pay state of Utah retirement to employees.
“The county buying it wouldn’t solve anything,” she said.
She and another healthcare board member have visited Rocky Mountain Care’s facilities in Salt Lake City during the past five months, Allred said. She added that one other Salt Lake City company expressed interest in purchasing the care center, but didn’t follow up.
“I think the bond [debt] really scared them off,” Allred said.
Healthcare district board member Kirstin Peterson said she has heard that Rocky Mountain is “a quality organization.” However, she cautioned that negotiations are only in the talking stage.
“Until there’s money on the table there is not a done deal,” she said.
Peterson said the district board has implemented several cost-cutting measures at the care center in recent months. Those include variations in staffing, vacation time, and billed services, she said.
“We are systematically trying to look at every way to cut expenses,” Peterson said. “These are all things that would make the care center look more attractive to a buyer.”