Carbon County officials want to weigh their options at the county nursing home.

During the county commissioners' meeting last week, the board unanimously voted to approve a proposal from the Susquehanna Group Advisors, Inc. of Harrisburg, to provide an operational assessment of Weatherwood, the Carbon County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, in Weatherly. The cost for the company's service is $17,750.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said the county hired Susquehanna Group to do an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the facility and provide a report on the operations and the options the county has with operating a nursing home.

Under the agreement, Susquehanna Group will assess the 200-bed facility in numerous areas, including reviewing the company's business model, financial information, collective bargaining agreement, compensation and benefits of employees, personnel policies, admissions agreements, census data, the case mix index, cost reports, surveys from the Departments of Health and Welfare, the nursing staff schedules, dietary options, laundry and housekeeping operations, and any other pertinent information.

O'Gurek said it will take about a month after the assessment for a report of the company's findings to be ready for presentation to the commissioners.

The board agreed that they are not looking at closing or selling the home, but are weighing their options.

In recent months, Weatherwood has had issues financially.

Reasons for the financial problems, the county cited include the nursing home's population, which is dropping, and the rising costs of operating the facility.

According to a previous article published in the TIMES NEWS, the gap between revenue and expenses may translate into a $2.5 million county contribution in 2010. This is up significantly from this year's county contribution, which was $350,000. The money was used to balance the deficit the nursing home recently experienced. Up until 2009, Weatherwood had been self-sustaining.

This deficit is a new occurrence for Weatherwood, which was built in 1972.

At one time, the nursing home had a surplus in its fund of $8 million, but government funding regulation changes caused the county to be using Weatherwood's surplus to offset operational costs and capital projects. The account was then closed and all remaining money was transferred into an account known as the "Weatherwood Account."