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Weinberg Campus hiring firm to explore options amid industry challenges

The Weinberg Campus board of directors plans to hire an investment firm to explore a range of options, up to and including a possible sale of the 100-acre senior living community in Getzville, but board leaders insist the campus will remain open no matter which scenario they choose to pursue.

Operating losses over the past several years, lower reimbursements from the federal government, demographic changes in Western New York, the growing wish of seniors to live longer at home and other trends in the health-care industry all have prompted the campus to take steps to secure its long-term prospects, Kenneth A. Rogers, Weinberg’s board chairman, said in an interview Friday.

“While the corporation is healthy – which it is – we need to look at all of our future options,” Rogers said. “We know that the world is changing around us. The world of health care is changing around us. And we want to be good stewards of what we have taken on for the people we provide services to, on and off the campus.”

Weinberg began serving the elderly, primarily Jewish, population of Buffalo a century ago. It moved from its longtime Symphony Circle home to its North Forest Road location in 1993. Today, Weinberg serves Jewish and non-Jewish residents alike, in a rental community with no entrance fee. It has 14 buildings with nearly 800 living units on 100 acres. Weinberg has about 500 employees and about 750 residents and clients in its senior apartments, adult home and assisted living, skilled nursing, home care, respite services, rehabilitation, managed long-term care and adult day programs.

Weinberg has an operating budget of about $33 million and it lost money in 2013 and 2014 and expects to lose money again this year, Rogers said. The board decided about a year ago that it had to take action before it was too late, he said.

In May, Weinberg’s Menorah Campus Inc. affiliate sold a 28-acre parcel of land at 2091 Sweet Home Road for $5.675 million to a joint venture that planned to construct a $30 million student housing development there.

This fall, the Weinberg board issued requests for proposals to investment firms. The campus board began interviewing the first of four investment firms on Friday and will continue the interviews through this month, Rogers said. He said he expects the board to select an investment firm in February and to hear back from the firm on the campus’ options sometime next year, giving the board time to make a decision on what step, or set of steps, to take by the end of 2016.

“We want to continue the mission, and make sure that nobody’s harmed by this,” Rogers said.

Peter Fleischmann, the CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, which manages and administers the campus’ reserves and its endowment assets, said it’s difficult for a relatively small, independent senior-living community to continue to provide the range of high-quality services that Weinberg provides, but he believes Weinberg’s assets will be attractive to an investor or buyer.

“I think this is absolutely the right and the responsible course of action for Weinberg Campus and for our community,” Fleischmann said.

The campus does not plan to make any layoffs and, in fact, is looking to fill vacancies in its work force, Rogers said. Weinberg did significantly scale back its Menorah Licensed Homecare agency, which once employed 80, earlier this year.

Todd Hobler, a vice president with 1199SEIU Health Care Workers East, which represents about 400 Weinberg employees, said his union has not had a good experience with for-profit companies that have sought painful contract concessions after buying other nursing homes in this market.

“Our primary concern is that our members’ jobs are secured and protected and that if there is a sale of some or all of the Weinberg Campus that it is to an organization that’s going to put the interests of the residents and the people who care for them first,” Hobler said.