Savage: Plan not ‘set in stone’
The proposed plan for a new Glendale Nursing Home seemingly pleases Glenville residents’ opposition to building on open space, and town officials’ desire to keep the facility local.
The Schenectady County Legislature’s Human Services and Aging Subcommittee on the Glendale Nursing Home held a meeting at the facility on Wednesday, Jan. 26, to unveil the concept plans for a new facility, which stretches back to initial talks in 2005. In May 2009, the county legislature approved to bond over $50.5 million to construct the new facility without a site plan submitted to the county and there still hasn’t been one submitted. The plan presented at the meeting only a concept plan.
Glendale is a very, very important component to our community and this is a facility that has been here for many years and has been built in stages and it is time for us to modernize, said Brian Gordon, county legislator and co-chair of the committee. `It is my feeling that while we would love to be able to provide services so that people could age and convalesce in their own homes there is always going to be a need for some people to have a place to go for more intense or long-term rehabilitation needs.`
Gordon, D-Niskayuna, said the home acts as a safety net for individuals that can’t afford a private facility and people that can’t get in to a private facility. Gordon, who is an orthopedic surgeon, said there are times when people don’t need the intensive care a hospital provides, but returning home isn’t the best or safest option.
Parking spaces at the facility became tightly packed as the 6:30 p.m. meeting start time crept forward, with some cars overflowing onto snow covered sections of the lawn and other drivers slowly pacing the parking lot to little avail. Even after the meeting began, people were still entering the towering facility and climbing the steep steps of the main entranceway.
Inside the home there quickly became standing room only before the presentation, which had approximately 200 attendees, with a majority of the metal chairs being occupied by nursing home residents, staff and county officials. The outer ring of the of the room was filled with eagerly anticipating residents, family members of home residents and Glenville town officials waiting to hear the actual plans for the first time.
`If I look out in this audience I can understand why this is a worthwhile endeavor,` said Gordon. `We need to have a place for our elders to obtain care.`
Home stays off open space
The new 200-bed skilled nursing facility is planned to be built in front of the current building, but due to lack of space a portion of Hetcheltown Road in front of the building will be moved 90 feet to meet town requirements and create a buffer space for a safe removal of the old facility. The county owns the portion of road and land on the opposite side of the road.
`What we have to show you tonight is a concept,` said Chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature Susan Savage. `Please understand that whatever we are presenting to you is not something that is set in stone. They are concept, they are ideas and they are really a road map to get us to the next step.`
Several town residents, originating from Cedar Lane in Glenville, have petitioned the County Legislature for around five months to not construct the new facility on the nearby open space next to the Indian Kill Nature Preserve, which became known as the Indian Kill Field.
`One of the things that we heard in the course of discussions is that people would like to still have the Glendale home in the town of Glenville,` said Savage. `What we went to work to do is to try to find a way to make sure the concerns of the people that live in the area are meet as well of the concerns of the people that live in the Glendale Home.`
Once Savage announced the home would be built in front current facility there was a rousing applause from the crowd, pleasing town officials’ wishes to keep the facility in the town and residents concerns to preserve open space. When Savage previously said the new facility wouldn’t be built on open space or disturb the community sledding hill, she drafted legislation to preserve the open space from any future development. Her resolution has yet to be tabled for a vote and one resident asked if the legislation would now move forward.
`Now that you have chosen a site for the new nursing home will you be moving your legislation forward to preserve and protect the open space behind the Glendale Home from any future development?` asked Kathleen Collar, Cedar Lane resident and member of Preserve the Field at Indian Kill.
Savage said the residents concerns received a lot of attention by legislators, but she didn’t commit to bring her legislation forward.
`What we are going to do as we take these further steps is to keep those concerns very much in mind and that maybe a step that we will take; we are not there yet, but we hope to be there very soon,` said Savage.
Savage previously released a statement on Aug. 24 that the new Glendale Nursing Home would not be built on the Indian Kill Field, because the site has `inadequate space and difficulty and costly engineering challenges.`
Town officials also shared their praise for the proposed concept.
`This is an important part of Glenville for us and I want to thank you, because I believe you and the legislature have listened to the town and the residents,` said Glenville Town Supervisor Christopher Koetzle after the meeting. `I think you have accomplished at least the two goals we have set forth to you in our conversations.`
Koetzle expressed his concern about the plan not being `set in concrete,` but after talking to town board members in attendance he stated they’re generally in favor of the plan.
The cost of care
One element missing from the presentation was any mention of an estimated cost of constructing the new facility. Some attendees later questioned county officials why the cost of the project hadn’t been mentioned during the presentation.
`What is it going to cost?` asked Jason Planck, a disability advocate. `We have heard rumors anywhere between $50 million to $55 million, we need some solid answers.`
Eleanor Clark Tunny, a Glenville resident, also questioned how much the facility would cost to build.
`Who is going to pay for this nursing home and how much is it really going to be?` asked Tunny. `Last night President Obama said (during his State of the Union address) ‘we are going to reduce spending’ what about Schenectady County? How are we going to take care of our people? How much can Schenectady County residents afford to pay to build this nursing home when private facilities are expanding?`
Tunny asked if there had been any cost comparisons done on options the county could take with the nursing home and what costs would be associated with a privatized nursing home.
Schenectady County Manager Kathleen Rooney said there isn’t a site plan, because the county is only at the beginning level of the design. Also, she said the county is confident the cost will `land around` the nearly $51 million bonded. The primary financing will be coming through Medicaid funding, she said.
County Legislature Minority Leader Robert Farley noted the current deficit the state is in and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s upcoming proposed budget, which is expected to have drastic cuts in Medicaid.
`One of things that we are looking at with this project is to have a higher level of Medicaid reimbursement,` said Farley. `We are looking for state aid on construction costs. All of those have to come from the state and some from the Medicaid dollars from the federal government. If that money is not there, can our taxpayers support to build this facility?`
If the county doesn’t receive the expected funding, Farley said the plan for building the home might need to be revaluated. Without state help, he doesn’t believe county taxpayers can afford to build the facility.
`There is a lot of open questions, but I do commend my colleagues for their effort tonight, because more of the questions have been answered, at least in my mind, this evening than have been in the last five years of the process,` said Farley.
Designing a home, not an institution
Trying to develop more of a `home` and less of an institutionalized hospital-like feel is the main focus of the proposed facility.
The Glendale Nursing Home was founded in 1936 and has had several additions, but due to the construction of the facility one section of building can’t be renovated without disturbing infrastructure functions of the other sections.
`The facility is aging, its really aged,` said Savage. `We’ve really taken it beyond its useful life, so what we need to do is kind of reinvent ourselves to look at things a new and see how we can do a better job for the people that live in this community and the people that want to remain living in this community even though they are at a point in their life when they need some extra help.`
Lorraine Hiatt, a long-term care facility design consultant, said designing the facility she looked at the current make-up of residents in the home. She broke down the type of residents into four different groups with 30 percent of residents being heavy care, 27 percent needing special or rehabilitation care, 25 percent being moderate care and 18 percent only needing light care. The typical resident is in their 80s after taking out short term care patients, said Hiatt.
Making sure the environment didn’t feel like a hospital for long-term care residents was a focus of the design.
`One of the qualities of our new building is a household rather than a hallway,` said Hiatt. `In our environment what we are looking at is individuals who need their rooms and their bathrooms, but they also need to understand what’s right outside their door.`
Instead of having a `long hallway` with 30 to 40 individuals, the new design has groups of 13 to 14 living together, which are separated into small `households` of residents. She said this design allows the caregivers to be equally close to everyone and release staff to be resident centered.
`As we get to our new facility, care will be streamlined and swifter,` said Hiatt. `Not only does it look more homey from the outside, it feels more residential from the inside.`
Maximizing private occupancy rooms is another focus, but there will be the option to have interconnecting rooms in some instances to allow for couples or friends to be near each other.
Improving the dinning aspect also attempts to create more of a residential feel, by having a dining room rather than trays.
`Food is still made and saved in the central kitchen, but it is dished up and you get the fresh aromas in the serving area,` said Hiatt.“