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Warren Co. leaders vote to explore privatizing Westmount nursing home

Warren County Supervisors voted Aug. 2 to seek proposals from private companies to operate Westmount Nursing Home, with a mandate that services be expanded, existing staff be retained, new jobs be created  and that Medicaid patients would be accommodated. Neighboring Essex County and Washington County have recently taken action to privatize their nursing homes. Essex County’s facility, Horace Nye Nursing Home, has been operating at a substantial loss, and Washington County’s Pleasant Valley Home has also been operating at a loss as well as being cited for various clinical violations.

Warren County Supervisors voted Aug. 2 to seek proposals from private companies to operate Westmount Nursing Home, with a mandate that services be expanded, existing staff be retained, new jobs be created and that Medicaid patients would be accommodated. Neighboring Essex County and Washington County have recently taken action to privatize their nursing homes. Essex County’s facility, Horace Nye Nursing Home, has been operating at a substantial loss, and Washington County’s Pleasant Valley Home has also been operating at a loss as well as being cited for various clinical violations. Photo by Thom Randall.

— With Warren County’s Westmount nursing home facing future financial losses predicted to total millions of dollars, county supervisors voted unanimously Thursday Aug. 2 to explore privatizing the facility.

County Administrator Paul Dusek developed and presented the proposal Aug. 2 to the supervisors serving on the county Budget Committee, who then gave the initiative — to issue a Request for Proposals for the facility’s future operation — their overwhelming support.

Rather than envisioning it as a “fire sale” — dumping it for cash as other counties across the state have done — county Administrator Paul Dusek said that privatizing Westmount might be more of a public-private partnership that could benefit everyone.

He cited the resounding success of the Warren County railroad, which was a floundering concern until the county sought a development proposal which prompted Iowa Pacific Corp. to respond with an ambitious proposal that re-envisioned it with freight service, special events and a national publicity. The firm launched the Saratoga-North Creek Railway, following through on a contract tailored to the proposal, and the railway blossomed to surpass expectations.

In a similar fashion, the county could ask for private firms to submit proposals, that would have such minimum guarantees as:

1) Continued care of residents and the county’s elderly, including providing for those depending on Medicaid and Medicare;

2) Expanding the nursing home population or range of services — like developing assisted living facilities, adult day care and/or rehabilitation care;

3) Retaining existing employees; and

4) Creating new jobs.

The Supervisors serving on the county Budget Committee endorsed the concept of soliciting proposals as Dusek described, and the initiative was forwarded to the county’s Human Services Committee. The measure will likely be subject to consideration within weeks by the full county Board of Supervisors.

The proposal was undertaken in light of the operating deficits Westmount is now experiencing, and projections of how state and federal subsidies are to decrease substantially by 2012, Dusek said.

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