Leasing the county nursing home is the most practical and affordable choice

To the Editor:

The Albany County Legislature must make a decision — continue a senseless political standoff over the future of the Albany County Nursing Home, or put politics aside and do what is right for our residents. (To read the Feb. 28, 2013 story, go online to www.AltamontEnterprise.com: “Lease pact for nursing home scrutinized ahead of hearings.”)

The legislature has known for years the county cannot afford to operate our nursing home, yet no viable options have been proposed by the Democratic majority.  Back in 2010, I proposed a resolution calling for a referendum to decide the fate of our nursing home.

Legislators defeated the measure by a vote of 24 to 11 with three members abstaining. As a result of the county’s inaction, more than $100 million in deficits have been accrued over the past decade and these deficits continue to rise. 

Who pays for these shortfalls?  The taxpayer!

The legislature knows that double-digit tax increases must be imposed on residents if the county continues to operate the home. These increases are a financial drain on our elderly struggling to remain in their own homes. Growing tax burdens coupled with rising utility, food, and gasoline costs will make it impossible for many to stay in their familiar surroundings.

So what are the affordable options? The legislature could close the home. This will leave our elderly, indigent, and hard-to-place residents without a long-term health-care facility.  It also raises questions as to where the current residents will be placed.  Most, undoubtedly, would be moved out of the area.

The most affordable and practical choice presented is a lease agreement between United Services Group and Albany County. USG is state approved and oversees 11 such facilities in New York.

The lease agreement will stop the financial drain on county taxpayers and answer the needs of approximately 220 residents currently in our nursing home. It provides these residents with the least disruptive alternative.

 The proposed lease agreement has been subject to many legislative meetings; questions have been proposed and answered; hearings held; and several studies, including one by an outside counsel, have been conducted.

It’s time for legislators to look at the facts, think about our residents, and stop the delays and political power struggles. It’s time to bring the lease agreement to the floor of the Albany County Legislature and pass it.

Christine Benedict

Minority Leader

Albany County Legislature