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September 27, 2012

Advocate asks board to rethink Manor sale

JOE MAHONEY
THE DAILY STAR

---- — An Otsego Manor patient and an advocate for keeping the county-owned nursing home under public ownership urged a panel of Otsego County lawmakers Wednesday to rethink the recent decision to sell the Otsego Manor to the “highest responsible bidder.” “There are a lot of things you are trading off here at the expense of the residents,” said Maureen Culbert of Springfield, a volunteer at the nursing home’s activities department whose late mother had been a Manor patient. Culbert told members of the Board of Representatives’ Otsego Manor Committee that they should have taken the time to solicit public input before taking an action that would directly impact the Manor’s approximately 172 patients and the more than 200 staffers at the home.

Board members have reasoned that they were left with no good options because of escalating costs associated with operating the Manor and a growing annual taxpayer subsidy that stands at about $3 million this year.

But Culbert said her own research into the privatizing of public nursing homes has found a “direct correlation” between those transformations and a slide to “poor care” for patients once the facilities have been converted to for-profit homes.

She also said it is likely that a new operator would transfer profits out of the region, while the staffers would see cuts in their wages and benefits, moves that would take a bite out of the local economy. “You are cutting your nose to spite your face,” she said.

Claire Cardinale, a former hairdresser who is now a Manor patient with multiple sclerosis, said the board failed to notify “the taxpayers footing the bill” for the Manor that the nursing home was slated for being sold to a private owner.

Cardinale, 57, said the county will end up getting the title to her home in return for the care being provided to her. “If this is privatized, you guys get (the house), and I don’t know what I get,” she said.