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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Steuben sells health care facility to owners of Founders Pavilion

  • The Steuben County Health Care Facility complex has been sold to Centers for Specialty Care Group, LLC for nearly $11 million.

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  • The Steuben County Health Care Facility complex has been sold to Centers for Specialty Care Group, LLC for nearly $11 million.
    County legislators unanimously approved Monday the sale of the 105-bed, four-year-old facility on Mt. Washington Road and the nearby former health care facility.
    But emotions ran high before the final roll call vote on the sale.
      CSEA officials and employees lobbied emphatically against the sale, asking for the vote to be tabled to allow for more time to consider the matter.
    Union leaders warned Steuben lawmakers selling the nursing home would not save the county much money overall and warned the quality of care would deteriorate under a private company.
    “You are removing a vital safety net and putting long term health care out of reach for many of your residents,” said CSEA Western Region President Flo Tripi.
    Others union officials argued there was strong local support to keep the facility, with 66 percent of local taxpayers surveyed wanting the nursing home to stay under Steuben’s control.
    The poll was a random sampling of 689 people across the county, according to union official Chris Reakal.
    But legislators said the sale pay downconstruction costs and do away with an operational annual deficit of $2 million to $3 million -- the equivalent of a 6 percent to 9 percent tax hike for property owners.
    The new owner, Centers for Specialty Care Group, LLC was selected from five bidders and owns Founders Pavilion in Corning, Legislator Scott Van Etten said.
    “We toured Founders, we talked to the residents there,” Van Etten said. “None of them said they had any of the kind of the problems (with care) you’re talking about.”
    County Legislator Gary Swackhamer, R-Hornell, said his mother had been a county nursing home resident, adding he has spent 25 years on the county board trying to keep the facility.
    “It’s not us. It’s not us,” Swackhamer said. “It’s the state government you should be talking to. They said ‘You build it. We’ll pay you more.’ They lied to us… You’re talking to the wrong people.”
    Steuben legislators considered selling the county nursing home some 10 years ago, after the facility’s $10 million reserves were nearly depleted by operational costs. But the search for a seller turned up one bid for $1 million and the Legislature soundly rejected the deal.
    Instead, they took up the state’s offer to build a new $17 million facility, paid for largely through state aid. State officials also said they would reimburse the new nursing home at higher rates for daily operations.
    At the time projections showed the higher state rates would bring the new facility to a break-even status. But the promised higher funding never materialized.
    Page 2 of 2 - Instead, counties across the state can expect lower reimbursement, while private companies are receiving more money, legislators said Monday.
    County Administrator Mark Alger said the union’s warnings low-income residents will not be accepted under new ownership are misleading.
    Alger said the county’s sale agreement stipulates 80 percent of the residents must qualify for Medicaid – similar to the number of residents at the facility now. Typically, private pay residents also transition quickly to low-income status, too, he said.
    Adding the old facility to the sale also may offer the new owners an opportunity in the future to provide other aging-related services, Alger said.
    “Obviously I can’t speak for them,” he said. “But we put the old one in to see if there was interest, and there was, from a couple, for that purpose, of day care or assisted living.”  
    Alger said as painful as selling the facility is, the sale probably ensures the nursing home’s future.
    “If we tried to maintain the service, ultimately we would have grown broke,” he said. “Now, they may even expand some services.”
    Alger said the county will now complete its negotiations, with no deadline set for the closing. Centers for Specialty Care Group also must apply for and receive a Certificate of Need from the state, before the sale can be complete.
    Union officials – who also voiced concern current employees will lose some of their benefits – said they will keep an eye on the proceedings.
    Steuben County CSEA Local President Sally MacDougal said the union will keep a close eye on future negotiations, especially the employees’ contracts.
    “We did our best,” she said. “And we’re still here for the employees. That hasn’t changed.”

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