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January 22, 2014

Manor finalists' homes rated by area couple

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A Cooperstown husband and wife, both with a background in healthcare, have provided members of the Otsego County Healthcare Facilities Corp. with their review of nursing homes run by the two companies in competition to purchase the financially troubled Otsego Manor.

In a letter now being circulated to the seven members of the corporation that will choose the Manor buyer, Betsy and Bill Hayes gave a favorable review to the VestraCare home in Johnson City, the Susquehanna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. They had critical remarks for the Focus Ventures home in Utica, Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

Betsy Hayes, noting she is the daughter of a Manor resident, was identified in the letter as a registered nurse who has taught nursing students and wrote reports for the Otsego Public Health Partnership. Bill Hayes was identified as a clinical social worker for Bassett Healthcare for 38 years.

At the VestraCare facility, they wrote, “Staff, residents and family members readily indicated their pleasure working, living or visiting there. Residents looked comfortable, well taken care of and at home while sitting in the hallways.”

At the Focus home, they said, “We learned from our tour guide, the evening supervisor, that she was a May graduate from a two-year RN program, and was supervising the entire facility with no prior experience. ...There was minimal decor to communicate a sense of comfort or homey-ness. ... The showcase atrium and dining facility were closed due to a leaky roof. Not all staff were willing to talk openly with us.”

The Daily Star, quoting committee members, has reported that Focus is the frontrunner for the Manor after offering a high bid of $18.5 million to purchase the 174-bed nursing home from Otsego County. The VestraCare bid has been pegged at $15 million. County officials have indicated that while they want to get as much money as possible for the Manor, the top objective is to find an operator with a strong record of quality care.

A key issue before the committee is whether Focus has the financial stability to run the Manor in a way that does not jeopardize operations there should it get the keys to the facility, according to committee member William Dornburgh, a retired banker from Cooperstown.

A VestraCare executive has alleged that Focus faced a lengthy delay in getting a certificate of need from the state Department of Health for the Utica home. On Tuesday, four days after the state agency was asked by The Daily Star to provide information about the status of the certificate of need for the Utica home and for the date it was granted, the agency did not release the information.

It could not be immediately determined why the Health Department is stalling at releasing the information in the week before the committee could decide on a new Manor operator.

James O’Hare, a Health Department public information officer who said last Friday he would obtain the information, returned neither email messages nor phone calls from The Daily Star on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Dornburgh said he would like to see the local development operation carry out its work in a way that is more transparent to the public.

“I’m all in favor of full disclosure,” said Dornburgh, who backs the VestraCare bid and whose wife, Patricia, is a Manor resident.

Focus and VestraCare are the only two bidders that remain in contention after the committee’s request for proposals prompted a total of eight submissions.