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Philadelphia's Only City-Run Nursing Home To Be Shut Down By Year's End

Starting in 2023, the city of Philadelphia will no longer operate any senior housing facilities.

The Philadelphia Nursing Home at 2100 West Girard Ave., seen in 2009.

At the end of this year, the Department of Public Health is closing down the Philadelphia Nursing Home as a money-saving measure, the city agency announced on Tuesday. The facility currently has 266 occupants for its 402 beds, down from 373 at the start of fiscal year 2019. DPH will work with each resident and their family members to relocate them to private facilities, it said in the announcement.

“While I am sad to see the Philadelphia Nursing Home close, the financial realities of long-term care and the impact of the pandemic mean that it is simply not feasible to continue to operate such a large facility with so many empty beds,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said in a statement.

“I am deeply grateful to the dedicated, compassionate staff of PNH and am committed to supporting them in their job transitions and to ensuring that every PNH resident is safely relocated to a living situation that meets their needs.”

The 302K SF building at 2100 West Girard Ave., near where the neighborhoods of Fairmount, Brewerytown and Sharswood meet, was built in 1930 and sits on land owned by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, according to city property records. The city leases the building for $1 per year from DGS on a 50-year term that expires in 2026, DGS spokesperson Troy Thompson told Bisnow.

“We have not been officially notified that [the city] wants out of the building or the lease," Thompson said. "But they would have to work with us to put a plan in place for a phased transition back to the commonwealth if they want to return the property before the end of the lease term.”

What the city will do for the remaining three-and-a-half years of its lease with the state has not been the primary focus so far for DPH, which has been working with Fairmount Long Term Care, the nonprofit that has managed the facility for 20 years, to coordinate the relocation of residents to their preferred areas, DPH spokesperson James Garrow told Bisnow.

The cost to maintain and renovate PNH to keep it safe to occupy and current with best practices for nursing homes would be prohibitive, the announcement stated. The building's most recent assessed value is $33.5M, a figure that has not been updated since 2019 according to city property records.

The entrance to the Philadelphia Nursing Home in August 2021.

Part of the motivation for closing PNH now, less than six months after the initial announcement, is the availability of beds in other facilities in the region, the announcement stated. DPH has pledged not to move out any residents without a plan for where they wind up or with less than 30 days of warning, unless a resident opts to leave more quickly.

The decline in nursing home occupancy is far from unique to PNH, as hundreds of thousands of residents have died in long-term care facilities from Covid-19 in the U.S., while many others were removed by families concerned about transmission of the virus. Over the course of the pandemic, 22 PNH residents succumbed to Covid-19, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health data, accounting for about 20% of the decline in occupancy since 2019.

DPH is planning to offer retention bonuses to staff to ensure they stay on to ensure smooth operation until the closure and to assist in placement at other facilities. The nationwide staffing shortage at nursing homes should ensure that PNH staffers find a new job in relatively short order, the announcement stated.

As a publicly owned facility in the senior housing sector, in which the monthly cost of living at a private facility regularly outpaces Class-A multifamily rents in any given market, PNH's residents are mostly on Medicaid. That barred the center from raising rents to cover flat costs as the facility emptied out. DPH has been operating PNH at a loss for years, but the impact of a closure on the city budget during the upcoming fiscal year has yet to be calculated, Garrow said. 

Fairmount Long Term Care and DPH have been in direct contact with nearby facilities and have already received confirmation the bulk of residents' existing coverage, whether private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, will be accepted, a spokesperson for FLTC told Bisnow. Patients who struggle to find placement at a facility of their choice for financial reasons will be handled on a case-by-case basis.