Katie Clark, a nurse at the Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown, waves her sign at passing drivers on Main Street in Elizabethtown March 26. Workers, staff and community members who want to keep the home under Essex County control protested during the Ways and Means Committee meeting, where supervisors voted to seek higher bids from three private health care organizations who originally submitted $4 million offers for the facility.
Horace Nye Staff members, community members and family members of patients stood against the high wind and low temperatures outside the Essex County Government Center to protest the proposed privatization of the Horace Nye Home on Monday.
During the Board of Supervisor’s Ways and Means Committee meeting on March 26, over 30 community members equipped with neon colored signs and a bullhorn presented their message to passing cars and people on Court Street.
Protesters shouted “My mom’s in there,” “My sister’s in there,” “Don’t get old, You’ll have no place to go!”
With her bullhorn in hand, Horace Nye CNA Celeste Beeman projected to passing cars, “Support Horace Nye, Get involved, get the facts. 10 cents a day, $35 a year, get involved! Essex County needs Horace Nye, we can’t afford to sell.”
Protesters assembled on Court around 9:30 a.m. to project their message while the Essex County Board of Supervisors assembled inside the county buildings for the monthly Ways and Means Committee meeting. During the meeting, the board approved a measure to review bids for the nursing home.
For those protesting outside, the politics inside hit very close to home.
Liz Austin, an employee at Horace Nye and daughter of a resident, said she was standing up today for her mother and other residents that have no place to go.
“This brings tears to my eyes, if the public could know what the facts are about going private, I can’t imagine they would be in support of it,” Austin said. “Thats why we are here, we cannot privatize.”
Austin said her mother has been a resident of Horace Nye for over 10 years, suffering from dementia as a result of Parkinson’s disease. If Horace Nye privatizes, Austin said she and her family would be forced to take her mother out of the nursing home where she has been well taken care of, and she worries what kind of care she and her family will be able to provide her.
“Does anyone have the time with work and children? The care she receives here is phenomenal with a staff that understands the needs of her debilitating disease,” Austin said.
Austin said, wiping a tear from her cheek, that she is not so worried about the possibility of loosing her job but about the possibility her mother won’t receive the best care.
“We need our supervisors to step up to the plate for our residents,” Austin said. “Or the message is, don’t get old.”
After working a 16-hour shift as a CNA at Horace Nye, Katie Clark said she came out on the cold and windy day as a daughter of a resident and to show support for the resident’s who were unable to come outside.
Clark said the county was not supporting the home and felt it should take precedent over other services the county offers.
“I personally feel Essex County should take pride in their nursing home the way they take pride in the other services in the county,” Clark said. “The county is supporting the jail and the mental health services without making a profit, why can’t they take pride in and support Horace Nye without a profit?”
Over the weekend, Beeman said a sign had been placed on the front lawn of the Arsenal Inn at the top of Town Hill in Elizabethtown and later was taken down and moved onto Rte. 9 towards Westport. The sign flashed: Save the Horace Nye Home, Keep it Public, You will need it some day.
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley had the sign moved, citing the sign was unpermitted and violated town laws against flashing signs.
Beeman said no matter what, the staff at Horace Nye and the family members of residents will continue to try to raise public awareness in support of the county home.
“We’ll meet a lot of resistance for sure, but we aren’t going to back down from this,” she said. “Until our doors are closed and the new owners come in, we’re not going to stop.”