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Orleans legislators have many options before hasty sale of nursing home

Posted 12 September 2013 at 12:00 am

Editor:

Legislature Chairman Dave Callard has been quoted in the paper recently attempting to use an August 2013 report by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) as an indication that what he has been saying about the Nursing Home needing to be sold is true.

The report, Callard said, “confirms what we’ve been saying all along” about the financial plight of the nursing home. He said the report confirms that things will only get worse, and “the costs will continue to grow and the study says it’s impossible for us to make money” He also is quoted as having said, “Plus, there’s the philosophical question of whether government should run a business other than itself.”

If you actually read the entire report, what Mr. Callard’s statements strongly suggest is that he didn’t read the report. He didn’t think he needed a CGR study of “The Villages,” either.

The CGR report actually states that they believe that some counties are opting to sell their nursing homes without due diligence and for reasons of convenience, so they do not have to be bothered with making their homes viable. The report states, “counties need to be careful in doing due diligence in deciding whether or not to sell their nursing homes. Most counties have not considered other options for increasing revenue and reducing expenses and have not created a long-term plan. With the population getting older and having increased future needs, this is critical.”

Chairman Callard’s personal belief that the Legislature should not have to manage the nursing home is not an adequate reason to sell it, given all the risks involved, as well as the community’s investment in it.

The CGR study cautioned communities that a nursing home only be sold after some critical steps have first been taken.It recognizes that a nursing home is a valuable asset to a community, necessary to make sure that the vulnerable elderly are secure and cared for properly. So the report is actually being critical of counties that just are jumping on the bandwagon to sell when they saw that several other nursing homes have been sold. The climate for nursing homes has been difficult lately, but the CGR report suggests there are many ways for a county to try to deal with this. CGR suggests that selling should be the last resort.

Other areas in the state have sold their nursing homes, and each situation is unique, but some of the better reasons for selling included a lack of need in the area, higher income levels, declining populations of seniors, or facilities that weren’t kept up or managed properly. None of these is the case in Orleans County.Orleans has the fifth fastest projected growth rate of people 85 and above of any county listed in the report.

The report cautions legislators to be very careful when deciding to sell, because some counties that didn’t do due diligence have caused considerable trauma to their elderly and the community when the sale was conducted unnecessarily, too hastily, unwisely, or when the nursing home later closed.

Delaware County was cited in the report as a “cautionary tale to legislators.” It sold its nursing home without much thoughtful consideration or planning. This resulted in the private facility being closed down six years later. Residents were hastily placed elsewhere and their families scrambled to find their loved ones. This debacle caused years of trauma to the community. The path to the Delaware debacle is one too often traveled.

The report suggests several steps to take before even considering selling a nursing home.These include making a long-term care plan, putting together a future needs assessment (see Appendix, pp150-152), making every effort to reduce unnecessary expenses and increase revenue (such as using “The Villages’ ” A and B wings to provide respite and adult day care programs to reduce the strain on the community’s primary care givers), marketing services aggressively, converting underutilized beds to a better use (such as changing underutilized rehab beds to long-term beds), expanding community-based lower levels of care, and so on. The CGR report also urges state officials to help county leaders lobby the state and federal governments to help ensure that the IGT (Intergovernmental Transfer) program continues and payments are made available sooner, among several other things.

We currently have a Four Star nursing home in this community that serves the needs here well. It is a beautiful facility with a good staff. This is an area with a large population of seniors and generally lower income levels. The trend here is that the senior population is growing and living longer, suggesting that, if anything, the need for long-term care in Orleans County is likely to grow and continue to be essential. In a lower income area, there is a greater need to ensure that residents that are hard to place will continue to receive good care.

Currently, the cost to the taxpayers per year for our seniors to be cared for well is about the same as the cost of a tank of gas. That doesn’t constitute a burden in my mind. Many people have said they would be willing to pay more for this important safety net. We continue to be told that we face deficits of over $2 million, but in 2011 and 2012 the numbers were greatly exaggerated (see The Daily News, 8/23/13). Privatizing, according to the report, might result in a few years of modest savings to the taxpayer, but then the costs typically will even out or go up again.

What is missing here is an absence of due diligence on the part of Orleans County. The nursing home is a valuable asset to this community. The Orleans County Legislature, contrary to the recommendations of the entire CGR report, has not taken a businesslike approach before deciding that “The Villages of Orleans” must be sold.

Chris Loss
Albion