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County nursing homes at risk statewide

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The vast majority of the state’s county-run nursing homes are losing money and facing a shaky financial future according to the findings of a new study by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR).

As a result, most counties are looking for alternatives to deal with an aging population.

In recent years six New York counties have sold or closed their nursing homes, and as costs continue to rise, many others are considering privatization as a solution.

Average operating losses quadrupled between 2001 and 2010, largely due to a steep rise in employee benefits costs at county-run homes, according to the report.

It states that average employee benefits costs rose by more than 180 percent in the 10 years ending in 2010.

CGR study director Don Pryor says, looking forward, most counties are ill-equipped to deal with the needs of a rapidly growing elderly population.

“Very few counties have, at this point, any kind of significant long-term care plan in place, involving not only institutional care, but other types of long term care.”

Pryor says counties need to do their homework before selling a facility, and consideration needs to be given to long-term care strategies.

“One of the priorities for any county, before it makes any final decision about the future of its nursing home, is that they really need to look at the range of long-term care services that are currently available in the county.”

Pryor says most decisions about county-run homes are typically being made without regard to the long-term context.

He says, on the positive side, few counties are looking to close their homes. But he says facilities that have been sold have yielded mixed results with some maintaining or improving levels of care while others are failing to meet standards.

The report recommends that New York state officials work with their federal counterparts to ensure the future availability of program funding needed as a source of revenue by county homes. It also recommends that supplemental financial incentives are provided to help counties cater to ‘hard-to-place’ residents and expand long-term care services.

Pryor says employees and unions will need to work with county officials to find solutions for rising deficits and ensure care is available for the aging population.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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