A stressed nursing home operator looks at a computer while on the phone

The Champaign County Board Tuesday denied the request of the owner of a 243-bed nursing home in central Illinois who asked local officials to remove worker-protection covenants so it can sell the facility just three years after it bought it. The request comes after agreeing to keep the facility operating and current workers employed for 10 years.

Rehab Real Estate LLC bought the Champaign County Nursing Home in 2019 in a controversial deal that took the facility from public to corporate ownership. The private company changed the name of the facility to University Rehabilitation Center of C-U.

A company representative made the company’s case to the Champaign County Board’s Committee of the Whole before the vote, saying if the business was at all viable, the company wouldn’t be asking to drop the covenants.

In its proposal to the county, Rehab Real Estate claimed there are too many nursing home beds at nursing homes “in the vicinity.”

“The average occupancy rate at the facilities is 68% and there are 664 excess beds available on an average day in the area,” read the proposal. “Trends indicate that our seniors are staying home longer, with those discharged from the hospital returning home and receiving outpatient services or home health. This all translates into less demand for skilled beds in the region.”

Opponents said Rehab Real Estate, which is based a few hours away in north suburban Chicago, already knew all of those trends before it purchased the county nursing home in 2019.

“They promised the county that they could make it work. Now, they’re basically saying they can’t make it work,” Claudia Lenhoff, executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers told local reporters.

Lenhoff’s group asked the county to keep the covenants where they are. Before the 2019 sale, the CCHCC said it investigated quality of care issues at other facilities owned by William “Avi” Rother and his son Eric in multiple states. She believes they need to hire more staff and improve care.

A yellow triangle with an exclamation point shows up next to University Rehab’s Medicare.gov rating. That means the facility is actually “unrated,” meaning it has a “history of serious quality issues” and is at risk of “termination from Medicare and Medicaid.”