Two key staff positions at the county's nursing and assisted living centers are seeing turnover after a recent change in facility ownership.
Aurora Health Management, the buyer of the county facilities, is seeking a replacement for the administrator of Montevue Assisted Living. In addition, the director of nursing position at Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center has changed hands, said Stanley Snow, Aurora's president.
However, Snow said he doesn't anticipate staffing shake-ups as Aurora settles in as owner of the facilities' finances and employer of 323 former county workers.
"We're not looking to make any changes. We very much want to continue with the people we have there," he said.
Aurora offered a job to Diane Grove, Montevue's administrator, but she turned it down because she wanted to keep working for the county, Snow said. Grove, a 20-year county employee, is staying at Montevue for 30 days while Aurora looks for someone to take over the position, he said.
Benita Fisher, director of nursing at Citizens who worked for the county for 12 years, left her post in part due to differences of opinion between her and Aurora, Snow said.
"That was kind of a mutual agreement that it wasn't really working out, and we needed to go in a different direction," he said.
The company named Richie McAlevy as the new director of nursing, he added.
Reached by phone, Fisher said she is encouraging her staff at Citizens to focus on providing quality care to residents.
"They need to put the needs of the residents first, and if they do that, regardless of the challenges they are experiencing, they will be OK," she said.
"There's no changing what happened, but they've got to understand that for the security of the residents, they need to accept the change that has occurred and do everything they can do to make sure the residents don't end up suffering as a result."
The county handed ownership of center operations to Aurora on May 1. Though the company now controls the finances and employs the staff, the building and the land still belong to the county; officials plan to sell the property to Aurora at a later date. Until these sales, the company is renting the building from the county for $1.44 million per year.
Critics of the sale and some employees have faulted the county and Aurora for communication failures in the lead-up to the recent transition. A couple of days before the shift, county officials classified talk of a May 1 changeover as rumor and said Aurora still didn't have needed financing in place. Then on May 1, staff members learned they had become Aurora employees overnight.
"There was a lot of cloud, a lot of secrecy," said Augusta Sankey, former unit manager at Citizens. "I would have respected them (Aurora) more if they had been more transparent with the residents and their families."
Sankey, who worked for a private contractor, supervised the ventilator unit at Citizens until the end of April, when her company's contract was ended. Previously, she managed a dementia unit and worked for the county as acting assistant director of nursing.
Under the county's management, the centers were like a family, she said, and the ownership change should have been handled with great sensitivity.
"These are old people who have gone through a lot of loss in their lives, who have gone through a lot of changes. ... This is one change that I think the company should have been more transparent and forthcoming with," she said.
Aurora met with center employees in August to prepare them for a transition, Snow said, but the sale was complicated and prolonged unexpectedly by legal challenges. Snow said he only learned April 30 that Aurora had the financing necessary to take ownership of operations.
As part of the sale deal, Aurora agreed to extend employment offers to facility staff who used to work for the county. The 323 employees are receiving comparable benefits and identical salaries to what the county provided, Snow said.
However, the purchase agreement between the county and Aurora does not promise the employees their jobs for any specific length of time.
"Nobody is guaranteed a job regardless of their performance," Snow said. "But as long as people are doing a good job, there is no reason that we would make a change."
He also said he and his business partner, Robert Owens, have never cut pay at the 17 other care facilities they have acquired together.
During a Thursday report to county commissioners, Snow said Aurora representatives have met with residents at Citizens and Montevue. The company is working to provide dialysis services at the centers, he said.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.