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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.

— This year, Westmount applied $1.2 million of its reserve funds toward its operating budget and still had a shortfall of $584,000 bankrolled by the taxpayers. This operating shortfall is expected by 2016 to balloon to about $6 million, according to financial projections prepared several weeks ago by Dusek.

At the Aug. 2 meeting, Westmount Comptroller Becky Henkel said she believed there would be a lower deficits than those Dusek cited.

The supervisors, particularly Warrensburg Supervisor and county Budget officer Kevin Geraghty — as well as Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe — cited the need to continue to provide care for the county’s elderly who depend on Medicaid and Medicare.

Monroe noted that many nursing homes now turn away Medicaid recipients because the reimbursement pays far less than the services actually cost.

Westmount Director Barbara Taggart also said the county should continue its mission to serve all, regardless of ability to pay.

“Westmount residents grew up here, worked here, raised families here,” she said. “Caring for them is a moral issue.”

She also noted that 28 percent of Westmount’s patients were private-pay, which historically bolstered the home’s finances. County officials said this percentage was far higher than most municipally operated nursing homes across the state.

Supporting the initiative, Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley noted that shutting Westmount down would continue to cost the taxpayers anyway, as the county would be required to pay the Medicaid costs of the infirm elderly cared for elsewhere.

Dusek predicted that private firms would consider operating Westmount as an attractive proposition, due to its proximity to the Northway — which would be convenient for private-pay Capital Region families visiting their loved ones, and because it has a cogeneration plant on site that can provide heat and electricity inexpensively for the nursing home. He also noted the ample acreage available surrounding the home, the adjacent municipal water and sewer services, as well as the skilled existing staff.

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