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County seeks bids on Winchester House privatization

The Lake County Board voted Tuesday seek private management Winchester House county-owned operated skilled-care facility Libertyville. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

The Lake County Board voted Tuesday to seek private management of Winchester House, the county-owned and operated skilled-care facility in Libertyville. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

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Voted Against

Anne Bassi, Highland Park

Melinda Bush, Grayslake

Mary Cunningham, Waukegan

Bill Durkin, Waukegan

Michelle Feldman, Deerfield

Diane Hewitt, Beach Park

Pat Carey, Grayslake

Angelo Kyle, Waukegan

Audrey Nixon, North Chicago

Terry Wilke, Round Lake Beach

Voted For

Carol Calabresa, Libertyville

Bonnie Carter, Ingleside

Linda Pedersen, Antioch

Jim Newton, Lindenhurst

Brent Paxton, Zion

Steve Carlson, Grandwood Park

Diana O’Kelly, Mundelein

Susan Gravenhorst, Lake Forest

Stevenson Mountsier, Barrington

Aaron Lawlor, Vernon Hills

Craig Taylor, Lake Zurich

David Stolman, Buffalo Grove

Ann Maine, Lincolnshire

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Updated: August 3, 2011 9:11PM

A divided Lake County Board voted 14 to 9 on Tuesday to allow companies to bid for managing Winchester House, the county’s skilled-care facility in Libertyville.

“I’m very disappointed with the vote,” said John Jenkins, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2452. “This is sad.”

There are 153 union members working at Winchester House, Jenkins said. If new management takes over, employees will have to reapply for their jobs. To avoid that route, union members have expressed willingness to negotiate possible reductions to salary and benefits, he said.

“I welcome them to the bargaining table. I hope to see some written proposals. We’re going to continue to bargain,” said County Administrator Barry Burton.

Winchester House “pays well above the local market,” according to a benchmark analysis, Burton added.

The problem is that Winchester House cannot be supported through its current income, which is reimbursements from the government and property taxes, Burton said. At the same time, fewer people are using nursing homes.

Despite the financial challenges, Winchester House continues to ensure that at least 55 percent of all patients are on Medicare or Medicaid. With government cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, those reimbursement revenues are diminished, Burton said.

“We’ve worked with the Winchester House Advisory Board for alternatives. We looked at Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, then we looked at other alternatives,” Burton said.

Tuesday’s board action is not a final measure approving privatization. Bids from management companies will be accepted for 30 days.

They will then undergo “very thorough” background checks on each bid, including a proven history of quality of care, Burton said.

This information will be provided to the board at a later date, along with an update about union negotiations, Burton said. He estimated the process would take three to four months.

Thirteen community members spoke at the board meeting. Most praised the quality of care and urged board members not to approve the resolution.

Robert Depke of Gurnee, a former County Board chairman and Warren Township supervisor, proposed another measure.

“The government is broke. You won’t get any money to pay for health care in a few years,” Depke said. “Sorry, folks, but I think it should be closed. Get out of the nursing home business. I think that’s the best solution.”

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