A Minnesota company has added Casper's nonprofit Shepherd of the Valley Care Center to its fold of 12 nursing homes, its chief operating officer said Thursday.
"Our proposal stressed our intent to honor the goals and history of Shepherd of the Valley," said Tom Boerboom of Mission Healthcare LLC.
Mission Healthcare's announcement of the acquisition of Wyoming's largest nursing home put a fast end to a financial crisis that erupted in January that snared the attention of the governor's office and legislators and could have led to bankruptcy or even outright closure of the facility, affecting about 150 residents.
The privately held, for-profit company headquartered in Edina near Minneapolis will take over operations of Shepherd of the Valley in Paradise Valley on March 1, Boerboom said.
The nursing home's administration, including CEO Jill Hult, will remain in place, although Boerboom said he will bring in an assistant. "We involve people; we don't tell them, 'This is how it's going to be.'"
He declined to comment about any staff changes.
"What makes it successful is the staff," Boerboom said. "We don't want to bring anxiety to the employees."
He learned of the financial difficulties of Shepherd of the Valley through someone affiliated with Mission Healthcare's operations in Rapid City and Belle Fourche, S.D.
Those difficulties of Luthercare Inc., which does business as Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, raised the possibility the center would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which allows businesses to reorganize under court supervision while keeping creditors at bay.
But its 12-member board of directors, including representatives of the four local churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, didn't like that idea, even with the prospect of enhanced Medicaid funding, board chairman Rick Bonander said.
As the idea of bankruptcy went out the door, potential buyers walked in, including Boerboom, who helped open and operate the Westward Heights Care Center in Lander.
"It's a great facility," Boerboom said.
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When he visited about 10 days ago, people didn't know him but greeted him with upbeat attitudes despite the grim news of the financial crisis of mounting debt and the prospect of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, he said. "I got a really warm feeling from the staff."
Three other prospective buyers also visited, Bonander said.
But Mission Healthcare's management style will fit best with the patients, staff and community, Bonander said.
"They seem to have a mission similar to ours," he said.
While Mission Healthcare is not affiliated with any religious organization, Boerboom said it employs ministers and recognizes the value of spirituality in residents' lives.
While the terms are tentative, Mission Healthcare probably will pay upwards of $6.5 milion for the assets -- 7 acres and the 105,000-square-foot building -- plus the debt estimated between $2.25 million and $3 million, much of which is owed to the Internal Revenue Service and the state of Wyoming, Bonander sid.
The assumption of the debt will resolve issues with the IRS and local vendors.
"It wll be good for the community and for the residents," Bonander said. "It's a win-win-win."
The negotiations will begin in earnest soon, he and Boerboom said.
Mission Healthcare may need to cut costs, but Bonander said he didn't know what that would mean in terms of staff or services.
"There's a lot of lives at stake in this," he said.