URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — An Urbana nursing home and rehabilitation facility is shutting down as the owner loses millions of dollars running it.
Avi Rothner, owner of University Rehab, cited financial, census, regulatory and operational challenges as reasons for the decision. There are 80 patients in the 243-bed facility, and Rothner expects to have them moved out by mid-June.
“The decision to close was reluctantly undertaken after lengthy consideration, but for operational reasons, it was determined that now was the appropriate time to proceed,” Rothner said in a statement to WCIA. “This decision was made due to continuing census, regulatory, operational, and financial challenges. We have been very transparent for some time that the level of occupancy in this marketplace generally and in this facility specifically is such that the situation is unfortunately not economically viable.”
Rothner said that he hopes to sell the building, which opened in 2007 and came under his ownership in 2019, to a company that would operate it as a substance use disorder facility. He brought to the county board a month ago.
But the board members denied his request to amend the covenant that required him to run University Rehab for another five years.
“Since that presentation Mr. Rothner has had regular contact with County Board members, the County Executive, and attorneys from both sides have been communicating. There is no shortage of engagement and communication happening between all parties,” board chair Kyle Patterson said. “And as Mr. Rothner is well aware, the sale of the nursing home was contingent upon it remaining open as a nursing home until December 31, 2027.”
Rother said he’s been extremely frustrated with the board, saying they’ve been unwilling to engage in meaningful and productive dialogue and have rejected requests put the proposal on the board agenda twice.
“We have tried to educate and inform the County Board by providing copious evidence to support our position and to communicate with them through every available avenue as to exactly what was happening and why,” Rothner said. “The County Board has been given an opportunity to allow this facility to remain as a healthcare setting providing a needed service, offering good jobs, and producing millions of dollars of economic activity for the area. They have rejected that, refusing to listen and ignoring the unfortunate reality, all to the community’s detriment.”
Rothner said that the facility is working with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman to ensure a safe and appropriate placement for those affected. An IDPH spokesperson confirmed the department received Rothner’s closure plan and will be working with the facility until June 17, when the last patient moves out.
But Claudia Lenhoff with Champaign County Healthcare Consumers said that for many, new placement could mean moving further away from their families and settling for subpar care.
“I just feel so sad about this, I feel that people are going to be very stressed and scared about this,” Lenhoff said. “And in terms of patients and families, and then I’m sure staff are also, you know, this is devastating for them as well. It’s just a very upsetting situation.”
Family members and friends of University Rehab patients are indeed upset and heartbroken by the announcement. One person was visiting a friend from church and when told of the closure, his jaw dropped. He said it is especially hard because his friend had bounced around to other nursing homes before.
Joyce Martin comes to University Rehab regularly to visit an old friend who has dementia. Martin said she didn’t notice any red flags or warning signs about the closure.
“When I went in there, I thought, ‘Oh my! Look at all these nice rooms. The area. Everything’s so nice,'” Martin said. “And since we really need nursing homes, it’s a shame for it to close. It’s a shame.”
Martin said the next steps for her friend aren’t too clear yet.
It’s not just the patients and visitors who are being impacted by this decision; the employees are too. They were given sixty days notice that the facility would be closing.
One employee of three years said that she is trying to stay positive, saying “We’re a team and we’re sticking together.”