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Teamwork, creativity bring solutions

Peter Eimer had the blessing of landing two jobs within a day of each other in 2001, one as an assistant professor at D’Youville College, the other as chief operating officer at Brothers of Mercy senior care campus in Clarence.

The two converged several years back.

“When I was talking with a Business Advance Program class downtown, I said, ‘We’ll probably do case studies on Yahoo and Apple, and they’re all looking at me and saying, ‘Do you know how many times we’ve done classes on Yahoo and Apple?’ I said, ‘What would you want to do?’ And they said, ‘Something in real life.’ ”

Dozens of D’Youville students have since been to the health care campus, including students who helped Eimer and the brothers dream up a new business model for the nonprofit company that runs a skilled nursing facility, 100 apartments for low- to moderate-income seniors, and the 70-bed Sacred Heart Home, which offers an intermediate level of senior care.

In the next several years, the brothers look to add an upscale, $18 million, 111-unit senior living complex, as well as an immediate care center open to the campus and larger community. There also has been talk of moving the Clarence Senior Center to the property.

Eimer, 56, of Amherst, a Town of Tonawanda native who graduated from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Canisius College, will work with a dozen members of the tiny Brothers of Mercy religious order to try to bring it off.

What’s the most miraculous thing you’ve seen in your time here?

When we’re really at a place when you think there’s no answers, something or somebody turns up that finds a way to get it done. The apartments are a great example. They are being done because of a cat, because cats are good for dementia patients. A woman named Carolyn Yurtchuk donated the cat. I met with her one day to thank her. She didn’t really know a whole lot about the brothers and our plans, but I said, ‘We’d really like to get some apartments built but we’re having trouble getting the financing together.’ She said, ‘You should talk to my husband because he just has a way of getting things done. I didn’t know John (executive vice president of Calspan and owner of Matrix Development), so I called him and one thing led to another and that’s how the apartments are getting built, because of a cat.

We’ve still got the cat. The thing is huge. I see him almost every day. His name is Sherman, Sherman the tank.

This is a big operation already. Where does the money come from?

You’ve got to be creative in finding ways to do all these things. You do a lot of collaborations, a lot of partnerships. This new apartment building, we couldn’t have done without John Yurtchuk being heavily involved. We’re going to own it but he’s really been good with financing. We’ll have a private mortgage.

The nursing home is 55 percent Medicaid long-term patients and Medicaid does not pay us as much as it costs to take care of people, so you’ve really got to find cash flow in other areas. So things like rehab, at least generally in the past, has been able to generate some dollars to make the home work. Even that’s getting really difficult because HMOs are cutting back on their reimbursement and government is, too. The doctor who might start an immediate care center, that’s going to be some sort of partnership.

Here’s an example of the challenges: We get paid about $155 a day for a long-term Medicaid patient and that might cost us $240 a day to take care of that person between dietary, housekeeping, nursing. Maybe they need some rehab every now and then, so the business model is tough. We try to break even every year.

Are all of your 240 skilled nursing beds generally full?

In the old days, where there was less competition, that may have been the case, but now we have available beds. Percentage-wise full, we’re always in the 90s.

Do you eat in the cafeteria?

Brother Jude (Holzfoerster) and I go to a restaurant every single day. It’s where he unloads his thoughts and we have a half-hour discussion, one-on-one. It’s really good. When he’s not here, I eat in the cafeteria and it’s the best deal in town. For $2, you can get a whole meal. Maybe I do that once a week. Anyone can come eat in the cafeteria. We are known for our food. We spend more than anybody else on our daily meals for residents.

Can you talk about the Catholic and/or Christian element of care on the campus?

We still have brothers who do spiritual care. Brother Fidelis Verrall is the spiritual care director at the nursing home and he’s there every day. Patients love him. There’s daily communion there. There is Mass on Saturdays in the nursing home. There’s daily Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel, which is gorgeous. One of my daughters is getting married there. It’s got stained glass from Germany. There’s a real Catholic element here, but you don’t have to be Catholic to be here. Residents of all religions stay here.

The greatest blessings of your work?

It’s a family atmosphere. You don’t have that corporate bureaucracy. Decisions can be made quickly. It’s a small board. There’s eight people on the board. I’m one of them. There’s five brothers. There’s Joe Dunn from D’Youville – he’s a doctor of chemistry and works in their school of pharmacy – and Dave Nasca, the president of Evans Bank. The brothers have been great in seeing our new vision. The main thing is to keep the mission going.


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