Opponents questioned whether a for-profit company could care for a hundred poor and elderly residents without cutting corners. Brian Mann was in Elizabethtown and has our story.
Supporters of the Horace Nye sale needed two-thirds of town supervisors in Essex County to back the plan, and they succeeded by a one-vote margin. According to Randy Douglas, chair of the board of supervisors, county officials had thoroughly reviewed the for-profit company that will now own the nursing home. He also argued that annual deficits at Horace Nye between $2 million and $3 million are unsustainable.
Minerva town supervisor Sue Montgomery-Corey supported the sale, and said that the new company will continue to offer high quality care and will continue to offer care to low-income residents who rely on Medicaid. She explained, “I think I’m confident of that because in the existing facilities that we visited, they already are, and they really look at how they bill for Medicaid and they really work hard at trying to make sure that they’re billing for all of the services that they’re providing.”
“I think that we are at a point, because of the financial condition of government in general, of having to make some really hard choices,” said Montgomery-Corey. Those in support of the sale say that Specialty Care of New York City has the capital to invest in nursing home here, and to offer the staff better training so that care and working conditions at Horace Nye might actually improve.
However, opponents of the sale argue that it will mean more uncertainty for poor people in Essex County. “There’s some services that government is morally obligated to provide, and I think services for our elderly population is critical, especially in a county as rural as Essex County,” said Moriah town supervisor Thomas Scozzafava.
Scozzafava pointed to the decision made by Adirondack Health to eliminate 60 beds from their nursing home. These beds were primarily occupied by low-income, Medicaid recipients. “Here’s the bottom line: you lose money on Medicaid. You know, that’s my biggest fear, because you don’t have a lot of the population in this county that are going to be able to afford that care if it’s needed,” said Scozzafava.
The vote was a major defeat for the CSEA Labor Union as well as for workers at Horace Nye. Shawna Barber of Mineville, NY, is a nurse at the facility and said, “I want to see what these people really do. If they care and are not just there for the money, I’ll stay. I don’t want to work for someone who just cares about money.”
Barber also expressed frustration with leaders of her own union who refused to negotiate with county leaders who were trying to eliminate that $2 million annual deficit. “We tried to, we talked to the union about that. We were willing over there to give up anything we had to give up. And because this county’s a whole union, they would not let us do it.”
As part of the sales agreement, Specialty Care of New York City will offer jobs to all current employees. Also, all current residents will be allowed to stay, and in the future, the company has agreed to give preference to Essex county residents, though the board of supervisors declined to stipulate how many beds would be set aside for locals. The company will also be required to meet all state health department regulations.
The sale of Horace Nye follows a regional trend in the North Country.