At last night’s meeting of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors a resolution was agreed to, formally approving the sale of Pine Haven Nursing Home from Columbia County to Premier Healthcare Management. Pine Haven will be sold.
When I ran for Claverack Town Supervisor in 2013, I pledged to support the construction of a new, county owned, facility on the Pine Haven grounds. In an open letter dated May 5, 2014, I said that I would “not support a decision to sell the (Pine Haven Nursing) Home... without absolute, irrefutable, facts demonstrating why there is no other way to move forward.” I have voted against every motion since then that paved the way for the sale of Pine Haven. Last night, I voted against the final resolution to authorize the sale of the Home. Despite our efforts, the resolution was agreed to.
It goes without saying that I am disappointed. Over the last year, I’ve worked hard to dig beyond the headlines and the bullet points to understand the clear picture that is Pine Haven. I spent hours talking with fellow Supervisors, Pine Haven employees, county officials, and Claverack residents. I received several emails and phone calls from people providing valuable insight and information (and thank you all). I took nothing at face value. I questioned everything presented to me. At the end of the day, the facts are grim. Healthcare in the United States, today, is a highly specialized service. The government has made billing, management, and reimbursement unbelievably complicated. They have, essentially, forced small operators – like Columbia, and other counties – out of the business.
Columbia County purchased the Pine Haven property in the early 20th century for the purposes of opening a Tuberculosis (TB) sanatorium. The TB facility was adapted to a nursing home after the epidemic was brought under control in the 1950’s. The current building was built in 1977-78, with a 40-bed addition opened in 1985. The structure and management has largely remained the same since then. We’ve simply been outpaced. The healthcare industry in the United States is becoming a more and more complex business, with the Affordable Care Act putting the nail in the coffin of many small operations.
This has been, admittedly, more than a bi-partisan process; it was a NON-partisan process – as it should be. Supervisors from both sides of the aisle, Republicans, Democrats, and those in between, took a long, hard, sincere look at this situation. For that, I am grateful. I just wish we could have found a silver bullet that explained the operating deficits. I wish we had spent the last year focusing on how to improve efficiencies and how to move forward as a County owned operation. But, alas, we find ourselves here.
We heard the tearful pleas and testimony of current Pine Haven employees. We heard from families of current Pine Haven residents, and taxpayers from around the county. We heard from county officials and the companies bidding on the purchase. When all was said and done, the totality of the evidence presented a compelling case for selling the Home.
Call me old school, but I couldn’t do it. I voted no.
As a community, we will see to it that the spirit of Pine Haven lives on. The facility will remain at its current location, with largely the same staff and caregivers. Please know that even those that voted to sell Pine Haven did so with heavy hearts and the best of intentions. Let us pick up and move forward, as a community, honoring the commitments and sacrifices of those past that have made Pine Haven what it is today – a caring, comfortable home.
I am releasing today an open letter to my colleagues on the Columbia County Board of Supervisors regarding Pine Haven Nursing Home. As you know, much attention has been given to the Home's operating losses in recent months. This has led to a dramatic shift in position of some members of the Board. But I argue that it would be premature to make a decision to privatize Pine Haven now. We simply don't know enough. We haven't, in my opinion, dug deep enough to discover true and accurate data, reasons for the deficits, and options for increasing revenue and improving operational management.
Please take a moment to read and share my letter. I've also included other documents and related items on a new page called "Pine Haven" here on this website.
We were advised on Wednesday, at a meeting of the County Board of Supervisor’s Pine Haven subcommittee, that work on the Pine Haven building project was being suspended. It was explained that this was being done to allow the County time to explore all available options related to the facility.
I want to reiterate to the residents of Claverack that I will continue to fight for Pine Haven. Most important to me are the residents that live there and the care that they receive. Several members of my own family, including my father, were residents of Pine Haven and received good, compassionate care while living there. This facility is important to me, as it is so many other families in Columbia County.
I understand that times are tough and budgets are tight, and I agree that we have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Columbia County to ensure every tax dollar collected is spent in the most fiscally responsible way possible. Several cost cutting measures have been employed at the facility already, but we continue to see large operating deficits. I understand the need to do what we can to bring these costs under control.
What I’m not willing to compromise on is Pine Haven’s future. We must do everything in our power to ensure Pine Haven remains open, in Philmont, providing top notch care, and good quality jobs for years to come. I will continue to fight for Pine Haven’s future!
Please, if you have any concerns or ideas related to Pine Haven – or any other town issue for that matter – send me an email at email@example.com.
Claverack Town Planning Board Meeting
Monday, February 10th - 7:00 pm
Claverack Town Hall (836 State Route 217)
I wanted to make you aware that Columbia County Public Works Commissioner David Robinson is scheduled to appear at the February 10th meeting of the Claverack Town Planning Board to provide an overview and update on the Pine Haven Nursing Home project. I plan to attend and invite you to do the same.