LITTLE VALLEY — Bad news for Cattaraugus County’s two nursing homes has left some county lawmakers with an urge to look into selling one or both of them.
Ten of the 17 Cattaraugus County Legislature members are co-sponsors of two resolutions to seek requests for proposals to sell The Pines Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Olean and Machias.
The resolutions were prefiled for action at this Wednesday’s legislative committee meetings.
Any discussion about selling the nursing homes has been off the table for the past two years after legislative leaders and union officials pledged to cooperate on cost-saving issues.
Last week, however, legislators met in closed session to discuss two violations at the Olean nursing home. That sparked a discussion — still behind closed doors — that led to the separate resolutions to seek requests for proposals to sell the homes.
The sponsors are Dan Hale, R-Portville; Richard Helmich Jr., R-Delevan; Richard Klancer, R-Gowanda; Robert Neal, R-Randolph; Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua; Legislature Chairwoman Paula Stockman, R-South Dayton; Howard VanRensselaer, R-Randolph; Dick Giardini, D-Allegany; Barbara Hastings, D-Allegany; and Susan Labuhn, D-Salamanca.
The number of sponsors is shy of the number of legislators — 12 — that would be needed to approve the sale of either 120-bed nursing home.
The latest nursing home deficiencies came to light during a closed-door Committee of the Whole meeting on July 7.
The deficiencies came to light after a survey group from the New York State Department of Health made its visit to The Pines in Olean.
Nursing homes director Timothy Hellwig said Wednesday one issue involved a patient who fell and was seen by a doctor. A second visit followed, but the state health department team determined a third visit should have been scheduled, which did not occur.
As a result, Hellwig said there has been extensive training of staff and policy has been modified to reflect the citation.
“We were cited for failure to notify,” Hellwig said.
The Human Services Committee will discuss the issue when it meets Tuesday in Olean, Hellwig said.
A second deficiency cited by the state health department survey team reportedly involved administration of medication by an unauthorized employee.
Legislature Majority Leader Donna Vickman, R-Farmersville, a former Machias nursing home employee and a longtime nursing home supporter, said Thursday she will not support the resolutions. She said the recent deficiencies along with continued county subsidies and the liabilities the situations create “has not helped the situation.”
The resolutions cite 2015 deficits of $879,239 at Machias after nearly $1.83 million in federal Intergovernmental Transfer (IGT) funds, and a $953,616 deficit at Olean after nearly $1.64 million in IGT payments.
“I’ve never seen a time when we didn’t get the IGT money,” Vickman said.
As the state government moves to more managed care, revenues could decline.
“You are not there to make money, so you are not losing money” on the nursing homes, Vickman said, adding they are a service much like the sheriff’s and public works departments.
““I’ve always been proud of the service we provide at the nursing homes,” Vickman said. “Our beds are always full.”
Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua, one of the sponsors, said the liability factor is a big component of the renewed interest in seeking a private buyer for the homes.
“It’s been simmering for the past few years,” Snyder said.
The combination of the amount of the tax levy that goes to nursing homes, the legal risk and the most recent inspection prompted the resolutions, he said.
Snyder said he didn’t know if there were enough votes on the Legislature to sell one or both of the homes.
“We need some public discussion on the issue,” he said.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)