Tremors shook the Perry elder-care marketplace this week when the Dallas County Hospital announced it had voided its contract with Newberry Companies, the Des Moines-based apartment-management firm that has operated Spring Valley Assisted Living since 2005, and entered into a lease agreement with the Perry Lutheran Home to begin running the senior center beginning Nov. 1.

Frank Levy, president of Newberry Companies, which manages more than 50 apartment complexes around the state, including three retirement communities, said he was "surprised but not stunned" by the announcement. He said the hospital has been "very transparent with us" through the course of its eight-year management of Spring Valley. "They were always looking at strategic options with Spring Valley. We knew they were looking for ways to rationalize it."

Levy called the new arrangements "a sensible move" by the Dallas County Hospital to make the Spring Valley facility "economically rational."

His company "worked for eight years to improve the financial stability of Spring Valley," Levy said, "and we’re very proud of the work we’ve done in Perry. There have been improvements and accomplishments that greatly increase its appeal to prospective buyers. Dallas County Hospital was a good partner, and we’re happy for them in their new partnership."

Matt Wille, Dallas County Hospital CEO, said the new plan is "a good thing for Spring Valley and a good thing for the Perry Lutheran Home."

Management by the Perry-based Lutheran Home "keeps things local and strengthens our local partnerships," Wille said. "There are exciting things going on at the Lutheran Home, and we are happy to be a part of it."

He said the Lutheran Home will be able to take advantage of "economies of scale" between its two facilities, making for more efficient services.

The Dallas County Hospital, an affiliate of the Mercy Health Network, built Spring Valley Assisted Living in 2001 on hospital land. The building itself was technically owned by a separate, non-profit entity, Spring Valley Assisted Living Inc., with its own board of directors, but the Dallas County Hospital guaranteed Spring Valley’s debt and effectively governed its direction. The new arrangement dissolves the non-profit corporation and its board, and the hospital will now simply rent the building to the Lutheran Home.

Lutheran Home CEO Max Phillips said the partnership with Dallas County Hospital has been "in the works for a while."

"We are expanding our dementia care and treating people in all stages of the disease," he said. "The Perry Lutheran Home has offered intermediate-stage and advanced-stage memory care, and with the acquisition of the Spring Valley community, we will be able to offer early-stage care as well, adding a third memory care unit to our existing two and providing a full-scale continuum of care."

According to a statement released Friday by the hospital, "All current residents and Spring Valley staff will become a part of Perry Lutheran Home. The facility and services offered at Spring Valley will not be changing."

In spite of these assurances, the change came as a surprise to workers at the assisted-living center, who are understandably worried about keeping their jobs under the new management regime of the Lutheran Home.

"We’re still in shock," said an employee of Spring Valley. "We have no idea what triggered this."

Phillips said the Lutheran Home "has offered employment to all the folks there" at Spring Valley. "If you want to fill out the legal paperwork, pass a drug test and take the Lutheran Home training, then we’ll find a place for you," he said.

The move by the Lutheran Home increases its assisted-living beds from 9 to 47 and keeps it in a strong position relative to Perry’s other big elder-care player, the Rowley Masonic Community, which is building a $23 million addition slated to open in 2014.