Similar to action taken this year by the Carbon County Board of Commissioners, officials in Northampton County said yesterday they agree with a study that recommends selling Gracedale, the county-owned nursing home located in Upper Nazareth Township.

The study was recently completed by Complete HealthCare Resources-Eastern of Dresher, Montgomery County, which indicated to the county it is time to privatize the facility, which cost the county $4.6 million in 2009 and is projected to consume $7.8-million from the county budget this year. County Executive John Stoffa and County Council President Ron Angle said they agree with the study's conclusion that it's time for a private company to take over the facility.

Gracedale is Pennsylvania's second-largest nursing home with about 650 residents. It provides jobs to about 750 employees.

In its report, Complete HealthCare indicated the demand for beds at the 725-bed facility had been dropping. On the other hand, staffing costs, including benefits offered employees and skyrocketing pension expenses were among the reasons for the multi-million dollar deficit.

Since 2006, the counties of Dauphin, Luzerne, Lancaster and Cambria have sold their nursing homes. Carbon County joined that list earlier this year. In Lehigh County, officials considered selling the Cedarbrook nursing homes in South Whitehall Township and Fountain Hill as recently as 2005, but have not taken that action.

Angle indicated it is likely the Northampton County officials will make a decision on Gracedale as soon as this month.