By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
---- — Bassett Healthcare Network and a company that was the successful bidder for public nursing homes in Ulster and Chautauqua counties are among eight companies that have submitted formal proposals for the Otsego Manor, the 174-bed nursing home that Otsego County officials have decided to privatize.
The cutoff for proposals was Sept. 27.
Otsego County Rep. Katherine Stuligross, the chairwoman of the Otsego County Healthcare Facilities Corp., said the corporation’s board members will now review the proposals in detail and try to select the best three or four. The finalists will then be given additional scrutiny, she said.
Bassett is the only bidder based in Otsego County. Its network includes not only Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, A.O. Fox Hospital in Oneonta and Cobleskill Regional Hospital, but also more than two dozen health clinics throughout an eight-county region.
Bassett offered no immediate comment on the Manor proposal that reached the local development corporation in time to be considered. In August, when the hospital first signaled it was considering making a bid for the Manor, a Bassett spokeswoman called the nursing home “a critical part of the health services network in our region.”
Another company angling to take over the Manor, Vestracare, already operates the Susquehanna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Johnson City.
Its three principals, Dr. Anthony J. Bacchi, Martin Farbenblum and Edward O. Farbenblum, are also involved in a partnership that was the successful bidder for the public nursing homes formerly run by Ulster County and Chautauqua County.
The partnership agreed to pay Ulster County $11.25 million for the deficit-ridden Golden Hill Nursing Home in Kingston this year, according to the Kingston Daily Freeman newspaper. That offer was $750,000 more than the $10.5 million selling price that Ulster County’s local development corporation had set for the property. The partnership, under the terms of the sale, also agreed to retain most of the county employees who worked at Golden Hill.
In Dunkirk, VestraCare made a 10 percent down payment this week towards its $16.5 million purchase of the Chautauqua County Home. Officials there said the county was losing $7,000 a day on the Chautauqua home. That property also reportedly includes a gas well that the county paid $400,000 to have installed but was never made operational.
The other six bids include one from Upstate Services Group, which last year was picked by the Onondaga County legislature as the successful bidder of that county’s 513-bed nursing home.
The other five bidders were identified by Stuligross as: Focus Ventures of Airmont; the Centers for Specialty Care Corp. in the Bronx; Personal Healthcare of Tarrytown; Rosenbaum & Associates, based in South Salem; and Corporate Office of Niskayuna.
Stuligross said the members of the local development corporation have no early favorite going into the review process.
“Nobody has an edge,” she said. “We will evaluate them all based on the same criteria.”
Significant research will be done to ensure that the finalists in the review process are all financially stable firms, Stuligross said.
“It wouldn’t help to get a bid from a company that couldn’t sustain the operation,” she said, noting the bidders have all been asked to submit three years of financial statements with their proposals. “We want to get the best proposal out of this as possible.”
The next owner of the Manor, through the state’s certificate-of-need process, would also have to convince the state Department of Health that it is financially fit enough to run the Manor.
Otsego County officials have said what they will do everything they can to avoid the type of transition that took place after Delaware County sold its nursing home to a private operator, Leatherstocking Healthcare LLC. The facility closed a year ago after it was unable to satisfy state demands to correct dozens of deficiencies at the 199-bed facility in Delhi.
Otsego County’s local development corporation is hoping to close on the Manor sale in 2014. Earlier this week, county lawmakers agreed to increase the daily private pay rate at the Manor from $250 to $275 a day, noting that the rate had not increased for some nine years.
County lawmakers opted to begin the process selling the Manor and created the HFC this year to handle the sale because of rapidly escalating deficits that have strained the county treasury.