An uncertain future for county care facilities
Posted at: 08/19/2013 11:19 PM
Can counties across New York State afford to stay in the hospital business? It's a question a research organization says each one should consider.
A new report from a Rochester organization says some county-run hospitals could be in jeopardy of closing, and counties will have to take a closer look at how much its costing to keep them open.
If a county closes a hospital, it would mean residents may not have a place to go. Simply selling one could mean major changes for residents and their families.
Here's a quick look at some of the key findings of this study, which was conducted by the Center for Governmental Research. It says 92-percent of county-owned homes outside of New York City are losing money. At least 13 of the 33 counties that operate their own nursing homes are now in the process of selling them, or actively considering selling them. Also, operating losses per resident, per day, had quadrupled from 2001 to the end of 2010.
News10NBC took a closer look at this report and what it would mean to a local facility like Monroe Community Hospital.
Last week, Moody's Investors Services cited "weak nursing home operations requiring general operating support" as one of the reasons it downgraded the county bond rating. So what does it all mean? News10NBC went to the author of the study to find out.
“Medicaid rates, the reimbursement rates for nursing homes, tend to fall on the average about $100 per day, per resident, short of the cost of operating the facilities. So that clearly establishes a huge gap. So what any county has to do it to say, is that a gap we are willing to absorb?” said Dr. Don Pryor
Dr. Don Pryor says what he found across New York State and Monroe County is no different. Out of 33 counties outside New York City, researchers found eight county hospitals for sale. Five are in the process of selling and the remaining counties are discussing the options. So News10NBC wanted to know if Monroe County should consider its options in light of the recent ratings downgrade.
“I think because of the broad range of folks it serves and the wide range of needs it meets, I think it would be a real mistake to shut down a facility like that. Then, the question is, would there be other buyers interested in buying such a large and relatively old, but certainly very valuable facility,” said Pryor.
Pryor says county run facilities are more about tradition than anything. They provide care to people who may be turned away at other facilities. He says there is no one right answer for every county.
Sarah Milazzo says she can't tell you how valuable Monroe Community Hospital has been for her family. She has cerebral palsy and has lived there for six years.
“I can't go back home. There's no way I can. My family can't care for me anymore, so this is my home. So if you want to cut some place, cut some place else, because this is my home,” said Milazzo.
Stephanie Leach visited 17 nursing facilities before deciding this was the right place for her ailing mother five years ago.
“Taxpayer dollars should be revamped into using for this facility and other facilities that are so good to take care of our family members, our friends, our less fortunate,” said Leach.
Despite these findings, Monroe County Spokesperson Justin Feasel told News10NBC County Executive Maggie Brooks has publicly stated her commitment to keep Monroe Community Hospital open. In fact, Brooks said this during of her state of the county address this year:
“If you look around the state, you will see many counties selling their nursing homes or closing them. They can't afford to be in the business anymore. As county executive, I serve as the governing body for our hospital. Two of my grandparents received care in that hospital and my commitment to preserving MCH as a community treasure runs deep,” said Brooks.
Dr. Pryor says there are some alternatives, like reducing costs by downsizing, negotiating with unions to change work rules that would save money and also expanding revenues by bringing in, for example, more short-term rehabilitation patients, and more accurately claiming services that are provided, so the hospital is getting paid for services it legitimately is giving to patients.
For more information on the CGR study, click here.