By WILLIAM R. PARKS
Recent statements made by Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards indicate that the character and purpose of the Chautauqua County Home will undergo major changes including adding apartments. These changes will surely displace residents and employees if Edwards' predictions come true.
Concerning the most recent offer, Edwards stated, "They want to dramatically expand the services that are currently being offered at the County Home. Not just in more rehabilitation, as they've indicated they have done in Ulster County, but they want to add assisted living, independent living, and apartment potential, and adult day care, and specific modalities of care for people who are developmentally disabled. That is precisely what we've been looking for all along."
1) In order to make the current nonprofit Home profitable, they will have to scale back services and manpower to operate the home for much less cost in order to make money off patients and off of proposed apartment renters. The purchasers will be absentee landlords because they reside hundreds of miles away. This is not their native community but they are planning to make money off Chautauqua County's elderly and disabled.
This kind of arrangement will obviously cause serious problems for the patients. Many of the patients are lifelong residents and taxpayers of the county who need care in the final days of their lives. To sell them out to a profit making purchaser of nursing facilities - who will obviously have to scale back costs in order to make a large profit off their investment and will turn the current facility into uses other than those originally intended - is offensive.
2) Once the Home is privately owned , the private owners can decide to do with the property as they please. The County Home is a very fine building and it has very nice grounds. It could be turned entirely into an expensive assisted living facility. The Home could disappear as a nursing facility with the loss of many jobs for the community and the loss of a place for disabled and sick senior citizens.
3) A recent study has indicated that as large investment firms buy nursing homes, the care of patients declines because these groups are mainly interested in cutting back on spending and making a big profit off sick people. One recent report noted how large investment groups purchasing nursing homes has led to care declining. For example, bed sores and infections can increase and as a result patients die sooner.
In conclusion, residents and legislators in Chautauqua County should not assume that private owners will maintain the use of any property they purchase. The American form of capitalism permits privately owned property to be sold or have its purpose changed by new owners. The Home could easily become a money making resort hotel or turned into a very fine apartment building with very little cost to maintain for the owners and big profits from the monthly rental income.
What will happen to current and future residents of the Chautauqua County Home who have no financial assets, are dependent on Medicaid, and who can't pay for enhanced care? Where will they be moved to if/when the Chautauqua County Home is turned into a facility designed for those who can afford to pay the high costs of a profit-making assisted living facility? Will dependent, low income seniors in need of medical care be able to remain in Chautauqua County?
The vote of county legislators and possible sell-out will have long term implications for the health and well-being of county residents in their senior years.
William R. Parks, a former Chautauqua County resident, resides in Hershey, Pa.