By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — Otsego Manor patients upset with the recent decision by county lawmakers to privatize the nursing home have found a new advocate to make their case: themselves.
A total of 76 patients at the facility have signed letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Sen. James Seward, R-Milford; and Assemblymen Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie; Bill Magee, D-Nelson; and Marc Butler, R-Johnstown, imploring them to go to bat for the 174-bed nursing home, said Maureen Culbert of Springfield, who worked with the patients in drafting the letter.
She said patients at the Manor’s Alzheimer’s wing were not asked to show their support for the letter.
“We are frightened that Manor will be sold out from under us,” the one-page letter states. “If privatized to a for-profit group, we are concerned that the care will be negatively affected.”
The letter continues: “We are concerned that this decision was done behind closed doors by the county and without input from the county residents. ... We are outraged that this could be started without input from the people who are most in need.”
Culbert said the Manor residents are upset that they had no chance to voice their concerns before the Board of Representatives opted to sell the facility to the highest “responsible” bidder.
“One woman there was crying she was so upset,” she said. “She felt that she wasn’t being heard, and that they (county representatives) don’t get it that this is their home. Most of these people have given up their homes. They have no homes to go back to now.”
The patients, she said, have also begun to circulate a petition decrying the decision to privatize the Manor. That can be signed by anyone who stops at the nursing home, she noted.
Members of the county board who last month voted to privatize the Manor said keeping the facility as a county-owner property would be financially unsustainable. The annual taxpayer subsidy to the nursing home — partly as a result of a reduced Medicaid reimbursement rate and costs spiraling — has been projected to grow from $3.2 million to $6 million in 2014, they said. Only one county lawmaker voted against the privatization plan: Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Springfield.
Culbert said she will read the letter approved by the patients to the county board’s Otsego Manor Committee, chaired by Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, at the panel’s meeting at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 16 on the nursing home’s second floor.
Last week, the Civil Service Employees Association, representing more than 250 Manor workers, initiated a lawsuit against the county board, contending board members deviated from state Open Meeting Law prohibitions against secret deliberations on public policy decisions when they discussed the Manor’s fate.