By MELANIE MANN
Here we go again! Like the proverbial bad penny, County Executive Greg Edwards has showed up again in front of the cameras proffering another buyer for our County Home. I have to hand it to him; the last potential buyer had a history of negative state Nursing Home surveys under his belt.
This buyer is so new and, in my opinion, seems to be buying up nursing homes so quickly it makes one wonder how much working capital he truly has? However, instead of talking about survey results, how about I just enumerate a few of the facts that stand no matter who Mr. Edwards turns up with to purchase the County Home.
Fact one: Several months back, about the time the ad hoc committee was looking in to ways to cut costs, the employees of the County Home offered to give up some of the "perks" that they are entitled to as county employees. Namely, approximately $150 per year per person for a uniform allowance as well as the quarterly sick pay bonus of $100 per quarter (potentially $400 per employee per year) as well as other county employee benefits.
What happened to that offer? The silence from Mr. Edwards was, and continues to be, deafening! He hasn't even come to the table in good faith to even acknowledge the vested interest these workers were willing to give up.
Instead, he takes to the airwaves stating that "the County Home is losing money." On this subject, Mr. Edwards, that is your fault for not moving forward and finding ways to save money. Your pet projects are funded. Why do we have millions invested in surveys on the eco-system of Chautauqua Lake, yet my loved-one - and those of other folks - face lower standards of care and quality of environment if your dream of selling the County Home comes to fruition. But, by all means, make sure the fish are comfortable and sustaining well.
Fact two: The wasteful spending that could help the County Home. For example, how about the gas well that a Buffalo news channel highlighted, that currently sits on the property? What was that put in for? How much did that cost? (Here's a secret John Q. Taxpayer, your money paid for that well).
And, yet, it's not in use. There is nothing being sold back to the grid, to go into the County Home coffers to ease their shortfall; nothing to offset the potential usage of the County Home (though much of the place is run on electric). It just sits there. Seems to me it would have been a better use of taxpayer dollars to put up a windmill to generate electricity, and get off the grid altogether. But I'm not the county executive, and I'm not wringing my hands and salivating at the prospect of selling the County Home in the last waning days of my administration
Finally, fact three: A private pay owner is just that - private pay. There will be very few Medicaid beds available at the County Home (in this one of the poorest counties in New York state). Speaking mathematically (and as a former admissions director for both a nursing home and assisted living facility that were private pay) that means that approximately 60 percent to 70 percent of the beds will be held and used for those with private funds available to afford care. Those with elderly loved ones that don't have three to four months worth of private pay funds (approximately $11,000 per month) will have their loved ones sit in the hospital or at home, and when a Medicaid bed becomes available anywhere within a 50- to 80-mile radius of this county, you will be forced to ship your elderly mother, father, grandmother, etc. there.
Yes, you will have to drive the distance to see them. No, they probably won't know a soul there. Yes, it's unfair. Yes, it's legal.
And one last thought to ruminate on; being in one of the poorest counties in this state, who does this private pay buyer think is going to fill all of these private pay beds? I fear that if the County Home turns to private pay and the owner doesn't have the well-funded residents to fill those beds, they will run in the red and eventually look for another buyer (one less savory) or altogether end up closing the County Home and forcing many out of a place to live and more out of a place to work.
Ultimately, the county will suffer even more. It bears a great deal of thought, and perhaps maybe a shot at implementing a few of the suggestions of the workers to see if costs can be lowered before selling the place off at the risk of those residing and working there, as well as our financial health of the county overall.
Melanie L. Mann is a Fredonia resident.