Nursing home debate to carry into 2012

The future of the Albany County Nursing Home remains unclear as questions continue to be posed about the need for county-run facilities in tough times.

On Dec. 5, the County Legislature adopted a $598 million dollar budget, which would raise property taxes by 8 percent. County Executive Michael Breslin vetoed that budget on Dec. 12. One reason for the veto was $1.4 million in Personnel Service Savings, which Breslin said would have “severe consequences” for the nursing home, due to an inability to hire certified nursing assistants.

Despite the battle between Breslin and lawmakers, little conversation over the long-term future of the nursing home was incorporated into the budget talks.

“I think every single member of the legislature has a sincere interest in protecting the elderly and those that need our care,” said Legislator Richard Mendick, whose district covers areas of Selkirk, South Bethlehem and Glenmont. “We also have to protect the taxpayers. Unfortunately, the Albany County Nursing Home has run in a significant deficit.”

That deficit has climbed over $20 million and county officials, in a November appeal to the State Department of Health for a Certificate of Need for a new facility, projected that the deficit will climb to over $36 million. In the past two budget cycles, County Executive Michael Breslin has advocated that the county sell the home.

“Clearly there are a number of legislators who feel that we should build a new nursing home, and regardless of the cost, we should run that as a county-owned nursing home,” said Mendick. “I’m of the opinion that there are better alternatives, there are cost-effective alternatives, such as looking at running it publicly-owned, but privately run.”

There are others who agree with Mendick. In November, the League of Women Voters of Albany County released the findings of its study of long-term care needs. The study was based on six months of research and interviews with experts, facility staff and patients. One recommendation in the report is that the county should delay plans to build a new facility.

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