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Legislator writes that privatizing nursing home will save it from closing

Posted 19 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Editor:

Despite characterizations to the contrary, as a county official, I have struggled long and hard with the decision to privatize the county nursing home. It is not a decision reached overnight, nor is it without consideration of the many concerns raised by opponents. People are certainly welcome to disagree. Change is hard.

No one, as has been implied, just conjured this issue out of thin air with no basis or to make up an election issue. The issue here is about responsible management of county resources and the survival of the home as a community resource for all of us well into the future. It is not about public versus private. It is about open versus closed.

Repeatedly, I have read attempts by folks advocating for the preservation of the county nursing home trying to insinuate that the financial circumstances of the Villages of Orleans are not all that difficult or that they are even total speculation. Let me assure you that the outlook is difficult at best and more realistically impossible. The only speculation is how bad it can get and how fast it gets there, not whether or not it will get bad. Burying our heads in the sand and hoping a problem will go away is not going to solve anything and it is simply not an option. In fact, it is irresponsible.

The Center for Governmental Research stated in the executive summary of its study on The Future of County Nursing Homes in New York State:

” … county homes throughout the state are increasingly vulnerable. Their future, individually and collectively, is jeopardized by increasing operating losses, reimbursement levels that fail to cover operating costs, declining intergovernmental transfer payments and the need for increasing county subsidies.”

Folks, these are the facts. I really wish we were making this stuff up as has been implied. Unfortunately, we are simply swimming against the tide.

Here are some more very important facts:

Only six percent of the 15,662 nursing homes nationwide are owned by state or local governments, a percentage that is getting smaller.

Of the seventeen counties in New York State under 55,000 in population, Orleans County is one of only three to own and operate a county nursing home.

Thirteen nursing homes in Western New York received the highest ranking from U.S. News and World Report and none of them were owned by a county government and only one was public at all (the V.A. home in Batavia).

As we continue to innovate, restructure and improve, the answers to our problems are not always going to be easy. This is a growing deficit problem that we can solve before it gets out of hand, before our only option becomes closure. We can transition this asset to a stable future and that is truly the best possible outcome for residents of the home and taxpayers. We simply just cannot continue to ignore or try to revise the facts.

I want people to know that I too have a personal connection to the Villages. In the last few weeks of my father-in-law, Bimmy Johnson’s life, the Villages allowed us to bring in 35 family members to celebrate the holidays with him for the last time. It was a wonderful day for him and our family and we were very grateful. That is why we are trying to save the county nursing home, save it from disappearing.

Lynne M. Johnson
Lyndonville
Orleans County Legislator, Dist. 2