Nov 18, 2010

Ron Angle's Hearing

After first promoting the private detention center for illegal aliens, Ron Angle has done a 180; He now can hear the protesters against that private facility. While I'm glad Ron's hearing has improved, now I wish he could hear the sobs coming from Gracedale. While he has heard the 400 against the detention center, he has yet to hear the 10,000 for keeping Gracedale. There are those of us who believe that county nursing homes are a core mission of that level of government. Nobody is born, works and pays taxes aspiring to end up in the county nursing home. When life has taken that turn, for generations, families have taken consolation that their loved one is in a caring facility, despite any lack of funds. If Gracedale has become upside down financially, it is clearly because of management decisions made by our elected officials. Although I understand that a private operator would not be bound by the union costs and legacies borne by the county, and can charge more to medicare, many questions remain unanswered. How can a private operator buy the nursing home, pay all that debt service, and still make a profit, while the county only sees red ink in the same facility? The County sees and hears what it wants to.
Any sale contracts or deed restrictions to protect the rights of county residents can be broken in the future. The only way for Northampton County to guarantee the affordable, quality care of it's citizens is to operate the nursing home itself. It is a question of priorities.

letter in Morning Call: Northampton County has misplaced priorities


monkey momma said...

"Although I understand that a private operator would not be bound by the union costs and legacies borne by the county, and can charge more to medicare, many questions remain unanswered. How can a private operator buy the nursing home, pay all that debt service, and still make a profit..."

I would imagine that union and legacy costs alone are enough to sink a ship like Gracedale. Having those burdens removed from the bottom line would be a huge improvement in the financial status of Gracedale. How is the county to overcome those obstacles, given current law? It's another example of how unions and pensions have absoultely ruined this country.

Also, it is not clear to me that anyone would be turned away from Gracedale due to lack of funds. There will still be places for the elderly who need a home. I do not see County can continue to shoulder this burden. I certainly do not see why taxpayers should continue paying outrageous legacy costs and labor costs that are artifically inflated by union thuggery.

gary ledebur said...

With life expectancy rising significantly, The U.S. Bureau of Health Statistics predicts that in the next ten years 20 million additional citizens will be living past 80 years. The need for additional beds for nursing care will rise exponentially as will the costs. If the Lehigh Valley provides quality nursing care, at government expense, one would expect a movement of Philadelphians and New Yorkers, where there is a dearth of nursing beds, particularly for poor folk, to move up the turnpike and west on I-78. If the majority of nursing home patients are Puerto Rican, one will expect hundreds more moving north and west. If county governments were efficient and flush with money, yes they should provide nursing care to its residents. Unfortunately this is not the case. Although I admire MM, the "People's Tribune" for wanting to aide the poor and folks lacking in English language skills, this is one of his most wasteful and improvident recommendations. Bloated government run by bureaucrats and employing a unionized workforce , trying to provide everything to all, is the problem. End the "poverty magnet" programs now before it is too late.

Bernie O'Hare said...

". The need for additional beds for nursing care will rise exponentially as will the costs"

Actually, they won't. For one thing, baby boomers don't wan to die in a nursing home. They want to die in their own home or a hospice. So the emphasis these days is making homes more elder friendly, visiting nurses, hospices, etc. Even Assisted Living facilities are losing money.

The union and legacy costs alone HAVE sunk Gracedale. hat's it. Seventy percent of Gracedale's cost is their staff. That staff has benefits that equal 68% of their salary. That compares to around 40% in the private sector. Unions won't concede a thing. On the day they were supposed to be negotiating in good faith on concessions, a gigantic rat was blown up and towed to the courthouse, and the hordes invaded.

Private management, which has been helpful at Cedarbrook, won't work. If we adopted EVERY recommendation in the study, we would still lose $3 MM per year, and that's without the capital expenses.

We put things off at Gracedale for years because it is, after all, just a nursing home for the poor. People there suffered for years with windows that leaked every time it rained. Stoffa fixed that problem, but it took him almost three years. That was at full speed. There are other needed capital repairs that are always being out off by a county with competing interests. A privately run nursing facility would not have any competing interests. It could sink its profits into improving the buildings.

MM discuses the history. Gracedale has really only existed as a nursing home since 1950. It also has a rich and much longer history as the "poor house". Should we re-open the poor house for the sake of history? There's a difference between history and nostalgia.

Angle insists his decision re GEO is not political. I believe he is tired of being painted as the face of something in which he has little involvement. He'd like GEO to come, but this is primarily a matter for the Township. Supervisors there are ducking the issue and letting Angle be identified as the driving force. What he has really done is let them take the heat.

It is difficult to fight a war on two fronts.

michael molovinsky said...

i support the county (lehigh and northampton) ownership of the nursing homes, despite the costs. i suspect, sooner than later, lehigh's cedarbrook will also be "upside" down, because of union costs and legacies. never the less, i see the homes as a historical responsibility and commitment by the county government. I would do whatever necessary, cut whatever possible, to maintain them. i've known people who ended up at cedarbrook who would not have received that care otherwise.

cedarbrook was not unionized until cunningham encouraged a cardcheck in 2006. how unfortunate that our local visionless officials jeopardized our historical institutions for vote pandering.

gary, although you're trying to be "creative" in the construction of your comment, maintaining the traditions of the counties is of course a separate issue from any "poverty magnet" considerations. old age is an equal opportunity condition. neither home is large enough to accommodate all our aging citizens of need, regardless of their background, but to abandon these institutions now, is morally flawed.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, if i understand your figures, it costs the county 28% more for labor than it will private ownership. again, i speculate that debt service by private ownership will cost that much. also, who said that the nursing home must break even or make money. if it loses $3 million a year, I say keep it open under the county; it's called moral obligation.(in my opinion) i must assume the capital improvements would be the same, by either private or public ownership.

if angle was concerned about 400 opinions, should he not also be concerned about 10,700?

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) Not all of the 10,700 who signed that petition would vote to keep Gracedale in County hands. There are 290,000 registered voters in NC. ho speaks for them?

2) The County has no legal obligation to provide nursing homes for the elderly. It certainly does have a moral obligation, and it is meeting that moral obligation by selling Gracedale. That's the best way to ensure a continued high quality of care. The County lacks the resources available to a for profit company and would always be tempted to take profits for other projects.

3) Any agreement to sell will have contractual language requiring that priority be given t indigents for about 80% of the bed space and there will also be language requiring certain levels of care, There will be regular monitoring, fines for not complying, etc. The language will be part of the deed and ill bind future owners.

4) The $3 MM figure I mention represents only operating costs. There will be an additional outlay every year for big capital expenditures. A private industry will be more likely to make those improvements than the County. We have bridges, the Courthouse, the jail and numerous other priorities that drain resources.

5) In addition to having cheaper labor costs, a private nursing home owner will get $4.6 MM more per year in Medicaid reimbursement. The County simply cannot compete in a nursing home environment. Even reimbursement is set up to favor the private owner.

The moral decision is to sell Gracedale and get it out of the County's hands. That's the best way to ensure a continued high quality of care. It is also the fiscally prudent decision.

Anonymous said...

Michael as you know I disagree with you on this issue. Government employees and their legacy costs will drown all of us in red ink. We have no right to force all citizens in a community to pay for a "retirement facility. We simply cannot afford it. Do we really know how many folks in Gracedale are really indigent and require such a facility. A Gracedale in past years was likely a necessity. Is it today???

michael molovinsky said...

bernie and bob, i'm glad to host your comments and have your opinion presented, however, as i said before, the issue is priorities. unfortunately, union and legacy costs are the new burden on government, if it be police or nurses. i'm not swayed by other counties giving up their nursing homes, or that we're not mandated by law to operate them. i have little faith in the longterm enforcement of "contractual language". by my moral compass, continued operation by the county would be the high road.

gary ledebur said...

County run nursing care a moral issue! Unbelievable. Not to be cynical but do you plan to go to a county home soon? Healthcare in America is a huge issue and one expensive local government run program is not going to help at all. When county governments run the parks, roads, and child protection well, then perhaps they can take on healthcare.

michael molovinsky said...

gary, actually here, the county does operate roads, parks and child protection. i've know a number of people who ended up in the county nursing home, and thank G-D it was there for them. i agree that one home won't make that much difference to the baby boomer crowd coming, but that's no reason to abandon an existing facility. no, i would hope not to end up there, but it has served a noble cause for many years.