BUTLER (KDKA) — Under state law, current residents of nursing homes can not be displaced, even if the home has a new owner. But a proposal to sell the county home in Butler is making many people uneasy.

Sunnyview is a 220-bed nursing home and rehabilitation center. It sits on seven acres and is minutes from downtown Butler.

Sitting in her cozy room, Becky Seyler, who’s been living in the nursing home for three years does not want to see Sunnyview sold.

“The people know me by name; they even know my nickname,” said Seyler. “This place isn’t just a place, it’s a home.”

Butler County Commission Chairman William McCarrier asks the question, “Is it right to require 187,000 residents of Butler County to provide care for 200 in our nursing home?”

Right now, McCarrier contends that Sunnyview is not breaking even.

Union workers say their offer to take a pay freeze next year and a two percent increase the year after would make the difference.

“It’ll save the county upwards of $1 million plus, and it’ll give them to numbers that they want,” said Terry Penrod, of S.E.I.U. Local 668.

But S.E.I.U. Local 668, representing 160 union employees at the facility, thinks the sale is already a done deal.

While the commission chairman admits there is active interest in a possible sale, he counters that a “done deal” is not true.

“It’s not a done deal until we sign the agreement,” said McCarrier.

If Butler County does get out of the nursing home business, it’s following a growing trend.

At peak, 50 counties in the state operated nursing facilities. Now, only 27 counties operate 32 homes statewide.

Some reasons for the decline, according to Mike Wilt, – the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Affiliated Homes, 80 to 95 percent of nursing home residents receive Medicaid dependent on dwindling state and federal funding.

But Sunnyview residents have concerns that privatization will adversely affect quality of care.

“That’s what I’m afraid of; we’ll just be a number,” says Seyler.

Butler County is asking a minimum sale price for the facility, of $13.5 million.

Opponents of the sale will bring their prayers and protests to the courthouse next Wednesday for a rally.

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