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November 1, 2012

Patients in wheelchairs protest Otsego Manor sale

The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — About 40 Otsego Manor patients in wheelchairs conducted in a 90-minute protest Friday against the planned privatization of the 174-bed nursing home.

“We were promised this was going to be our home for as long as we needed it — but it’s not ending up that way,” said Emma Jean Shepard, 83, of Fly Creek, a patient at the facility for nearly four years.

Clutching a hand-scrawled sign that read, “Keep the Manor county owned,” she said she’s very concerned that the level of care will decline if Otsego County moves ahead with plans to sell the nursing home to the highest “responsible” bidder.

County Treasurer Dan Crowell, who visited with the patients as they protested on a Manor parking lot, said he expects the sale of the facility — called for last month by the Board of Representatives — will likely take 12 to 18 months to execute. Crowell said he expects county officials will want assurances that the next owner can provide a high level of care once the Manor changes hands.

Also stopping by the rally was Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, who said he’d like to see Bassett Medical Center buy the facility.

“They’ve been here forever, and you can trust them,” he said.

County representatives have just begun to review applications from prospective consultants interested in advising the county during the search for a buyer.

The uncertainty about the Manor’s future has caused apprehension among its patients, said Maureen Culbert of East Springfield, a Manor volunteer who has been trying to build community opposition to the privatization push.

County representatives said they are actually trying to “save” the facility after concluding the county could no longer sustain mounting deficits. The current taxpayer subsidy to the Manor is about $3.5 million a year, and that sum is expected to mushroom in the future.

“The residents are very frightened about the sale of their home, and they don’t want to lose it,” Culbert said. “They want the county reps to come up with another plan. They need to take a second look and think outside the box on this one.”

She said Alzheimer’s patients and those confined to their beds were unable to participate in the demonstration. So far, more than 1,000 people have signed a petition urging county officials to keep the facility as a county-owned property.