Cayuga County legislators are being asked to seriously re-think the potential sale or merger of the Cayuga County Nursing Home.

In a letter dated Dec. 10, Colleen Wheaton, central region president of the Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing workers at the Cayuga County Nursing home, asked the Legislature to re-consider any decisions made about the nursing home and warned them of the potential dire consequences of privatization.

Wheaton cited the Countryside Care Center, a nursing home formerly owned and operated by Delaware County. Six years after the sale of the home to a private operator, it recently closed for good when private operators walked away from both ownership and promises made to the county and its residents, she said. The end result, she said, left nearly 125 nursing home residents to make alternate living arrangements hundreds of miles away from their families.

“It would be a tragic mistake to allow what happened in Delaware County to happen here,” Wheaton said.

Legislators have discussed the potential merger between the county nursing home and Mercy Rehabilitation Center for the last few months and officials have said that privatization could have a positive outcome for the county. No final decisions have been made. Nursing home residents and staff have stood in defense of the nursing home however, suggesting that the potential plan could be detrimental to the county.

Cayuga County Nursing Home Administrator Deb English is still waiting to see what the outcome will be but said legislators have had the mindset of sustainability and are trying to make a decision that is best suited for everyone.

“They are still in the process of gathering information and no final decision has been made,” English said. “I'd like to wait and see what the final product is going to be before jumping to any conclusions. I think that's what we're all waiting for.”

In her letter, Wheaton addressed the fast-growing population of aging citizens and that union members believe Cayuga County cannot afford to lose any nursing home beds and gamble on privatization which could result in some county resident needs unmet.

“With privatization, we lose the direct control we have over quality of care and costs,” she said, “and we lose that ‘safety net’ mandate to care for our most vulnerable citizens if they don’t happen to be able to afford private care.”

Instead, Wheaton urged officials to consider developing cost-saving initiatives that could help ease the county's burden.

“... I would hope that you would recognize, as do many of your constituents, that your County Nursing Home is something that your community values having, worth funding by whatever means necessary – whether it means raising taxes, or developing another dedicated funding source to continue your long legacy of caring for your own,” she said. “This is precisely the kind of service we pay taxes for.”

Staff writer Sistina Giordano can be reached at 282-2237 or Follow her on Twitter at CitizenGiordano.

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