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April 24, 2014

Manor sale to Focus awaits state review

By Joe Mahoney Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — The 174-bed Otsego Manor has been acquired by Focus Ventures for more than $18.5 million, but the deal will not be finalized until state officials approve a certificate of need for the new operator, officials said Wednesday.

The Otsego County Health Facilities Corp. approved the sale contract Wednesday afternoon after meeting with its lawyer, Shawn Griffin.

The transition from public nursing home to a private nursing home operated by Joseph Zupnik, chief executive office of Focus Ventures, will likely fall between Aug. 31 and Dec. 31, a timetable that will be determined by when state officials complete their review of the transfer, Griffin told The Daily Star.

More than 200 people are now employed at the Manor, and the contract requires Focus to allow them to apply for the jobs that they have now.

But officials also noted that Focus will be empowered to make the final call on who is kept on staff and who is not. Some Manor employees have already retired recently or signaled they plan to retire soon.

Carol Kiehn Kirkey, a member of the LDC board, said no patients will lose their bed at the Manor once the privatization is completed.

“No one will be forced to move to another location unless it’s medically necessary,” she said.

As for the employees, Kirkey said, “I want staff to understand, and I think most of them do, that there will be process by which they will apply for a new job. Our feeling is that if they like their job, and they’ve done it well here, they most likely will continue to have a job.”

The chairwoman of the LDC board, county Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, said she expects “excellent care” will continue at the Manor under the new operator.

“All the members of the LDC were impressed with the quality of care we observed during several visits to Focus Utica, which is owned by Focus Ventures. Focus Ventures offers competitive wages and benefits to their employees and works collaboratively with their union.”

She also noted the transfer will provide a new stream of property tax and school tax revenue.

The Manor has been losing money to the tune of about $500,000 a month, putting a strain on the county treasury, according to county officials. The Board of Representatives has kept the salaries of the county’s non-union managerial employees frozen for the past six years.

The finalization of the contracts comes three months after a divided LDC voted 4-3 to sell the Manor to Focus Ventures, which is based in Rockland County. The bid that came up one vote short was submitted by VestraCare, which operates Susquehanna Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Johnson City.

Zupnik said in a statement: “We won’t miss a beat in providing current residents the same high level of quality care they are used to. Beyond that, my longer term vision is to increase the options of care available. We will add adult day care as soon as possible. Our long-term plans call for working with officials to add the county’s first Medicaid-funded assisted living facility as well as senior housing to the site. These are options for seniors who may want an alternative to living in a nursing home.”

The expansion of services will create new opportunities for employees, said Maureen Imperato, the Manor’s director of nursing.

Rep. Kathleen Clark, R-Otego, the chairwoman of the county board, thanked the LDC members “for their dedication and diligence and the countless hours they devoted to finding a quality buyer for the Manor.”

“I am confident that the (LDC) board has selected an operator who is capable of delivering quality services to present and future residents of the nursing home,” Clark said.

The contract between the LDC and Zupnik’s company is expected to be posted next week on Otsego County’s web site: www.otsegocounty.com. 

Griffin said the date for the real estate closing will hinge on whether the state Public Health and Health Planning Council takes up the deal when it meets on July 28 or its subsequent meeting.  The council has authority over transfers of ownership of health care facilities in New York.