No real financial choice.
That’s how Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, described the Otsego County Board’s decision to sell Otsego Manor, the county nursing home.
Not everyone, obviously, accepts this. There are more than 1,000 people who have signed a petition urging the county board to reconsider its decision and believe there must be another solution.
If we take Stuligross and her colleagues on the board who voted to sell the Manor (which all but Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Springfield, did) at their word, then we would have to believe that there is no point to that petition — or to the protest residents planned to stage Friday, or to the lawsuit filed by the Civil Service Employees Association, which alleges that the board’s decision violated the state Open Meeting Law.
But we don’t accept it. And we urge the members of the county board to open their minds to other possibilities.
Back in June, County Treasurer Dan Crowell warned that reimbursements for Medicaid were scheduled to drop dramatically, which would leave the county paying millions of dollars of the facility’s operating costs.
“It’s become increasingly clear that if we are to maintain the high quality care that the facility offers, it would necessitate a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in the property tax bill,” Crowell told The Daily Star in June.
Crowell went on to say that the board must consider the spectrum of options available to it, with some urgency.
Well, the “urgency” part of his message certainly got through. Not three months later, the board voted to privatize the facility. Gone was all talk of other options, such as a public-private partnership, or changes to the Manor’s model of care that might reduce costs.
When the vote was taken, McCarty expressed his concerns as follows:
“I think they’re kind of jumping the gun a little bit here,” he said. “What bothers me is that we’re owed money from the state and federal government for this thing, and we’re not going after it.”
We believe that the members of the Otsego County Board who voted to sell the Manor had their hearts in the right place.
“We view this as a matter of saving quality nursing care in Otsego County,” Stuligross said.
But we do not believe — we cannot accept — that this is the only option. We urge the board to listen to constituents and go back to the drawing board to seek alternatives to privatization. It certainly cannot hurt to continue the conversation.