The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

January 15, 2014

In Our Opinion: Manor suitors need to be vetted in public

The Daily Star

---- — OK, so here’s the deal regarding Otsego County selling its nursing home to one of two finalists in the bidding.

One offer is for $18.5 million.

The other is for $15 million.

No-brainer, right? Take the extra $3.5 million and get out of the nursing home business.

Well, maybe so … or maybe not.

Focus Ventures, an investment firm from Airmont in Rockland County, operates Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 120-bed facility in Utica. Focus is the high bidder for Otsego Manor, the 174-bed home just south of Cooperstown.

The other finalist is VestraCare, which runs nursing homes in Johnson City and Kingston.

William Dornburgh of Cooperstown, one of the seven members of the Otsego County Healthcare Facilities Corp., which is scheduled to make its decision later this month, told The Daily Star that unlike the majority of his colleagues, he prefers VestraCare. That’s because its nursing homes have been ranked by the federal government as far better than the Focus property in Utica.

A Focus spokesman told this newspaper that since his company took over the Utica home in 2011, major improvements have been made that may not have shown up in a 2013 federal inspection report that gave the facility a low grade.

As far as we are concerned, the public is entitled to see all the information the board is using to determine the winning bid before a decision is made.

“The public is not making this decision,” one LDC board member told us. “We are.”

True enough, but the Manor issue involves the care and future of vulnerable human beings and their families. It’s a question that has torn at the emotions of residents and county officials alike.

We believe the county board did not want to sell the Manor, which by almost any measure has been a highly successful facility. We also realize that the representatives and Treasurer Dan Crowell had to face the fact that the county could not continue to lose $6 million a year running the nursing home.

With the decision made, assurances were given to those who fought against the sale that money would not be the only consideration when determining the next owner of the Manor. We expect those promises to be honored.

The public has a right to know before the sale what Focus or VestraCare will be doing to make a profit on the facility. Would the $18.5 million bidder have to cut services and personnel more than the $15 million bidder? What will they do that the county couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do to overcome that $6 million-a-year deficit?

This decision is much too important to be done behind closed doors.