County-run nursing home in Burlingame to remain open under private owner

by | Jun 22, 2012

Instead of shuttering an aging public nursing home in Burlingame that serves primarily low income and elderly patients, San Mateo County will turn it over to a private company, officials said Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors voted to put Brius LLC, which is known for taking over troubled nursing centers, in charge of the Burlingame Long Term Care facility on Trousdale Drive starting July 15. The center had been slated for closure, meaning layoffs for about 200 San Mateo County employees and an uncertain future for 230 patients.

In February, dozens of residents, many in wheelchairs, some carting oxygen tanks, had pleaded with county supervisors to spare the center. The board, citing reduced state medical payments and a building that would be dangerous in an emergency, voted unanimously to allow its lease for the center to expire in June 2013.

Brius plans to spend about $16 million to buy the roughly 50-year-old building from the Muzzi family and then spend at least $3.5 million on upgrades, officials said. Brius plans to hire about 150 current staff members and will allow the remaining 160 patients to stay. About 70 had moved to other facilities since the vote to close the center.

“I think this is win, win, win all the way around,” county health system Chief Jean Fraser said. “This is a much happier day.”

San Mateo County will supervise Brius during the transition and plans to turn over full control of the center in about


three years. Alain Kuppermann, attorney for Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz, said the company will complete the purchase soon and immediately start the renovations.”We are projecting heavy financial loss for the first few years,” Rechnitz said in statement. “My goal is to keep the facility open with employees and residents in place.”

Rechnitz was one of a handful of nursing home operators who approached the county and the building owner in the wake of the closure vote. What followed were months of intricate negotiations between the county, Brius, the workers’ unions and the building owners.

“Brius has been flexible and very responsive to our employees’ needs,” Nadia Bledsoe, a representative of the AFSCME union, said in statement. “Mr. Rechnitz’s efforts to retain staff have certainly paid off.”

Despite the positive turn for many employees and residents, about 80 San Mateo County workers will still lose their jobs, Fraser said. Most of the people who’ll be hired by Brius are slated to have their pay cut during the next two years.

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