Unanswered questions remain with nursing home sale
When County Legislator George Bower retired, the Nursing Home experience he had left with him. In my second term, it is not a stretch to say that he was the only legislator who knew the operation fairly well.
Now what? Legislator Lynne Johnson congratulated her fellow legislators at the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon on the sale of the County Nursing Home. She called it “a job well done.” “The sale of the nursing home takes the pressure off. We can rebuild our bridges and culverts.” Was she saying that we could not have rebuilt them otherwise? (Click here to “Legislature leader says selling nursing home one of county’s best decisions.”)
Yes, Lynne, the Orleans County Nursing Home just got privatized (January 1, 2015). Taxpayers may be interested to know that at any point during our operation of the publicly owned County Nursing Home at least $2 million in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement was owed them. That would have been the case on Dec. 31, 2014. It would not surprise me if that was news to some of our current legislators.
Here is the $2 million question: Now that the taxpayer-created Orleans County Nursing Home has been handed over to a private operator, who is seeing to it that the millions owed the taxpayers will end up in county coffers? Do we still have county employees pursuing reimbursement and accounts receivable? Or has the new owner been contracted to do it for us? And when will the final accounting take place?
It seems to me that taxpayers get information about the ongoing operation of Orleans County on a need-to-know basis. For example, were taxpayers ever told what the facility housing the County Nursing Home, Board of Elections, Public Health and unused storage space was appraised for? Why not? Was it an oversight? In the absence of any real accountability, why would taxpayers need to know that anyway?
Did the deal to sell the County Nursing Home for $7.8 million include the right of the new operator to recover $2 million in delayed reimbursement owed the taxpayers? Do we have a contract with them to do so on our behalf? Is that something we need to know? Is it more, or less, important than giving the taxpayers an appraisal of the County Nursing Home property before selling it for $7.8 million?
The theory the County Legislature operates on is one akin to “Ignorance is bliss.” After all, it was proven conclusively in 2013 that a majority of taxpayers either do not pay attention to truth, or cannot handle it when they hear it.
Your County Legislature has been reassured that it can do whatever it pleases. That is our “bad,” and the fact that Lynne Johnson thinks selling the County Nursing Home was a splendid accomplishment does not make it one.
Gary F. Kent
Mr. Kent is a former Orleans County legislator.