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ElderWood selling nursing homes; N.Y. City firm buying 16 of 18 area facilities

One of the region's biggest nursing home companies is being sold to a 14-month-old New York City partnership after 33 years of local family ownership.

ElderWood Senior Care said it has agreed to sell "substantially all" of its assets, including 16 of 18 nursing homes, to privately owned Post Acute Partners, a new player on the national nursing home scene. The companies did not disclose the price, but it's likely to be sizable given the number of facilities.

Officials stressed that the change of ownership will be "seamless and business as usual" for all ElderWood residents, families and employees. ElderWood said the new owners will retain all staff and senior management, as well as the ElderWood name.

"It still will be the same people caring for the residents. Everything will be the same," said Barbara S. Tschamler, spokeswoman for ElderWood.

The deal must first be approved by the state Public Health and Health Planning Council and could take 18 to 24 months to close.

ElderWood founder, president and CEO Robert M. Chur has already met with management at all ElderWood facilities and plans to visit the facilities to discuss the changes with employees, residents and families.

"I am confident that the ElderWood legacy of quality care, highly trained and top-performing employees and extremely satisfied residents and their families will continue in all forms with the new owners," Chur said in a news release.

He declined to be interviewed, citing a wish to wait until the ongoing due diligence is completed.

The new owners say they will be proactive owners and operators, not just background investors. They plan to "invest in both the physical plant of the facilities and in the technology," said Dr. Jeffrey Rubin, co-founder and principal of Post Acute Partners, who "will spend a significant amount of time in the Buffalo marketplace."

"We do intend on keeping management in place, but we do intend on being on site," he said. "It's our goal to add management resources and help them to manage more efficiently and effectively."

In particular, the company will focus on electronic medical records and "any possibility of using technology to deliver services more efficiently," Rubin said.

It also will enable more sharing of information and responsibility between acute-care and post-acute-care providers to ensure better care of patients. "That's where health care is going, and that's why we intend to be significant investors in that area of technology," said Warren Cole, the company's other co-founder and principal.

The new owners will also look at adding mechanical lifts, electric beds and whirlpool tubs, and doing cosmetic work such as carpeting, Rubin said.

Expanding facilities, opening new facilities or adding lines of business in conjunction with local hospitals or physician groups are also options down the road, Cole added.

"As we get into owning it and operating it, we will be sensitive to those opportunities as they present themselves," he said. "We are investing for the long term. It's not a financial play."

Founded in 1978 with one facility in Williamsville, ElderWood has grown into a regional operation with 18 facilities in Western and Central New York, employing more than 3,000 people and caring for more than 5,000 patients.

The company provides skilled-nursing, subacute-care, rehabilitation, memory-care, assisted-living and independent-living services. Nine nursing homes and five assisted-living facilities have earned quality awards from national organizations.

"I started this business because my parents had a nursing home in East Aurora. ElderWood effectively is my life's professional work," Chur said.

But he was ready to move on.

Cole said discussions between Chur and the Post Acute Care principals began last May, after Chur retained investment bank Houlihan Lokey, which specializes in both acute health care and private companies, to find a buyer for ElderWood. Post Acute Care was one of the bidders that Houlihan Lokey recommended.

Post Acute Care buys collections of facilities concentrated in the same region, operating them while updating their techniques and technology. The company started by purchasing a 72-bed nursing home in Rhode Island in December, then bought five pediatric specialty hospitals and an assisted-living facility in Pennsylvania in early February.

"I am extremely excited that ElderWood will become a foundation for our operations," said Rubin, partner-in-charge of operations and quality of care. "A company that has already achieved this level and consistency of quality is a rare find."

Chur will keep two facilities, which will be operated by existing management: ElderWood at Heathwood in Amherst, which was recently converted from a nursing home into an assisted-living facility, and ElderWood at Penfield outside Rochester, which opened as an assisted-living site last June. As a result, neither had enough financial history to satisfy Post Acute Care, although they could be included later, Tschamler said.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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