The time has come for the Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown to no longer be the responsibility of the Essex County taxpayer.
The county-owned facility has been operating at a loss for more than the past decade, draining money from the county coffers and adding to a tax levy that is now made tighter by the restriction of the two-percent cap.
It is clear that the most appropriate business decision is to cut the county’s losses and get out of the nursing home business, either through the sale of the facility to one of three interested bidders (Centers for Specialty Care out of New York City; Gerald Woods CPA, out of Nassau County; and Elliot Management Group out of Rockland County), or by shutting down the facility entirely.
Since 2001, the Horace Nye Nursing Home has been over $21 million in the red, not good for a facility that was set up with the express purpose to make money for the county under an Enterprise Fund. It has not been enterprising at all.
Washington County, which is similar in size to Essex, has already made the leap and is currently in negotiations for the sale of both its health care services and the Pleasant Valley Nursing Facility to National Health Care Associates Inc. The firm bid $6.56 million for both county health care packages. In Essex County, the home is the only item on the table, and has received three, matching, $4 million bids. Warren County is also discussing the issue as they face major budget decisions.
While $4 million may be nothing compared to the $21 million in losses, at least it is something compared to the tax hole that would be sitting in Elizabethtown if the facility were to close its doors entirely.
Don’t think that option is not on the table.
County Manager Daniel Palmer has said that if the county continues on its present course with the money the home is hemorrhaging, closure would be a definite option.
“It becomes unsustainable and at what point do you decide that you are going to stay in the business or completely shut the doors,” he said.
With a sale, the county receives at least some financial return. It will also have controls in place over the facility to keep employees in their jobs and keep a percentage of beds reserved for county residents or low-income individuals. That seems a far better option than having no facility at all.
We understand that this is a tough, controversial issue and that there are a lot of people who are invested in the outcome. Supervisors, county employees, nurses, staff, patients, seniors and families are all invested in this drama playing out before them.
At the same time, it seems the most vocal opponents of the sale have been county employees who fear that privatization could impact their pay and benefits, or, worse — cost them their job altogether.
While we cannot blame these employees for voicing those concerns, the supervisors cannot allow that to sway their vote, and we fear further dialogue in settings such as public hearings would be dominated by more of the same.
The board of supervisors was elected to look out for county taxpayers as a whole, not a select few — it is time they step up and make the difficult decisions they were elected to make.
If it is deemed through studying other private facilities that the quality of care will not suffer and that privatization will save taxpayers millions annually, then the decision is a no-brainer.
And, in the final analysis, privatization is a much better option for those same employees and the patients they care for than not having a facility here at all.
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