“We recommend that the County continue operation of the current facility and delay plans to build a new facility,” the report reads. It goes on to say that alternatives have not been adequately explored.
The League of Women Voters report also suggests creation of a public-private task force that would explore the full range of options over a six-month period, with considerations given to expansion of assisting living residences, incentives for private nursing homes to accept Medicaid and the size and scope of the problem concerning patients who are hard to place.
Legislator Charles Dawson, whose district lies entirely within the Town of Bethlehem, said the county can no longer afford to be in the business of operating the nursing home due to the unreliability of the state as a fiscal partner.
“The extraordinary costs of institutional care at our home deprives our county of its ability to help those who wish to remain at home in a non-institutional setting as well as short-changes funding available for many other important programs for seniors, children and others in need,” said Dawson.
Those who support construction of a new facility stress that a county-run nursing home would accept patients that other facilities wouldn’t, would provide better-paying and stable employment to health care professionals and would meet the needs of a county that already has too few beds.
Many counties around New York are considering what to do with their facilities. In Ulster County in the Hudson Valley, lawmakers recently voted to transfer control of the nursing home to a local development corporation, with the hopes of selling the facility to a private owner in 2013. Mendick agreed that the trend is to move away from county-run nursing homes.
“People are now trying to stay in their own homes or in the care of loved ones for a much longer period of time, reducing the need for nursing homes,” said Mendick.
No matter the arguments, the consensus is clear that some action has to be taken.
“We have a structural deficit within the budget that we continue to cover up by increasing the tax rate and cutting where we can,” said Mendick, who added that vacant positions have been cut and revenues have been inflated.
“The cost of the nursing home is clearly having an impact on the county’s finances and jeopardizing other programs which are taking drastic cutbacks to make room for the nursing home,” said Dawson.