THE SALE OF PINE HAVEN NURSING HOME
March 12, 2015
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.
Claverack Town Supervisor
PINE HAVEN BIDDERS PRESENT TO THE PUBLIC
AN OPEN LETTER TO MY FELLOW SUPERVISORS
REGARDING THE FUTURE OF PINE HAVEN NURSING HOME
May 5, 2014
The Pine Haven Nursing Home in Philmont has provided Columbia County residents with skilled nursing care for decades. The residents that live at the Home aren’t able to care for themselves in one form or another. Some are the neediest of our needy – vulnerable elderly residents who have turned to Columbia County for help as they live out their remaining years. Many, if not most, are lifelong county residents who have paid their share of taxes. They’ve worked in, and contributed to, our community in ways many no longer do. We owe it to them – all of them – to take a long, fair look at the financial and operational health of their home – our Pine Haven Nursing Home.
Shortly after being elected Claverack Town Supervisor I was asked to sit on the “Pine Haven Subcommittee.” I was excited to do so as the county was in the early stages of work to design and construct a new facility; a facility that promised to offer residents of the Home a richer life and at the same time designed to increase operational revenue. I was aware of the Home’s operating deficits and I understood we’d be taking a look at that aspect too – investigating why we were running these deficits and making necessary changes to bring the operation closer to budget neutral. But I have to say, I don’t feel that’s what we’ve done as a Subcommittee.
At my first meeting of the Subcommittee, February 27, 2014, rather than discussing the on-going design of the new facility or the operation of the existing Home, the purpose of the meeting seemed instead to focus on how the County could divest from being in the business of operating a skilled nursing facility. Similarly, the second meeting on March 27, 2014 focused primarily on a presentation from a private provider of skilled nursing care.
The April 24, 2014 Subcommittee meeting again focused on the need for the County to remove themselves from the skilled nursing business – despite the absence of any compelling, factual studies or data to support the immediacy for advancing the dissolution of the Home.
When I was first asked to be part of the Pine Haven Subcommittee I was excited, but if I was to describe my feelings now I’d have to say I’m disappointed.
Whether the County should or should not be in the skilled nursing business is a legitimate question to ask. It’s a legitimate topic to investigate. However, as we work through this process, we must avoid any knee-jerk reaction to divest ourselves of the Pine Haven Nursing Home without first learning the salient facts of its operation, such as; (1) What services does Pine Haven provide and could other services be offered or expanded upon to increase revenue? (2) What benefit does Pine Haven bring to the community? (3) What are the challenges for Pine Haven? (4) What are the Pine Haven expenses and what can be done to reduce those expenses? (5) What are the revenue streams for Pine Haven and what can be done to increase unrealized revenue? All solid questions that I as a member of the Subcommittee don’t feel I have complete answers to.
With respect to the Home’s operating deficit and overall financial condition, it is important that the cost figures presented to the Board of Supervisors represent the actual operating costs and are not unduly influenced by other capital projects that are not directly related to the Home’s operation – such as the approximately $200,000 relating to the new telecommunications tower and the $1.2M relating to the planning and design of a new Pine Haven skilled nursing facility. Similarly, the revenue needs to include all future reimbursements which have been committed to Columbia County, such as the approximately $1.6M IGT payment scheduled for later this year which defrays 2013 operating expenses. Liabilities, such as monies borrowed from the County to cover operating expenses, must be shown as operating losses otherwise this will portray the operating loss as double from which it actually is. Lastly, portraying the cost for County support services, as defined by the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB), as operating losses needs to be kept in the proper context; if Pine Haven goes out-of-business the cost for these ancillary support services from the County’s Human Resource Department, IT Department, etc, will not go away and will remain a cost to the County.
In contrast to evaluating the operation of Pine Haven under the points outlined above, it is equally important to understand the County’s Medicaid liability towards county residents needing skilled nursing care should the County divest from the Pine Haven Home. Counties in New York State must share the State’s costs of providing Medicaid benefits. If the County divests from the Pine Haven Nursing Home, the County remains responsible for Medicaid costs associated with county residents needing long-term care. Currently the County receives an IGT reimbursement that partially covers the Medicaid liability. The County would not receive this reimbursement should we separate ourselves from the Pine Haven Home.
There are many other fine points, both on the revenue and expense sides, which need to be considered before a true and accurate financial picture can be understood.
In closing, I would like to quote from Board Resolution No. 152-2013:
“...Whereas, Columbia County, under resolution numbers 453-2008, 168-2009, 391-2009, 392-2009, 393-2009, 406-2009, 377-2011, 407-2012 and 455-2012 has demonstrated a continued support for operating a County owned SNF (skilled nursing facility) and for the Planning, Design and Construction of a replacement SNF...”
This resolution, executed on May 8, 2013, not only shows a commitment to operating a County owned nursing home, but also illustrates a historical commitment to remain in the skilled nursing business through the passage of nine separate Resolutions between the years 2008 and 2012. Based upon the this, and the Board of Supervisor’s clear record of support for the Pine Haven Nursing Home, it is hard to understand how we as a Board could so suddenly find the urgency to now divest ourselves of not only the ownership of the Home, but also the $1.2M spent to-date for the planning and design of a new facility.
Again, let me state clearly, I understand the need to make some changes – changes that would minimize operating costs and maximize revenues at the Home. But I cannot and will not support a decision to sell the Home – potentially compromising the care and living arrangements of current and future residents, and certainly compromising the jobs of our many employees – without absolute, irrefutable, facts demonstrating why there is no other way to move forward.
Let’s please, take no action which will forever compromise our ability to provide long-term care to our senior population. Instead, let’s refocus and engage in determining what is wrong at the Home and how we can fix it.
I appreciate your time and hard work on this very important topic. We all want to do what’s right and best. Let’s put our heads together and get it done for the people of Columbia County.
Claverack Town Supervisor
Summary of Audited Financial Statement Info
Summary of Pine Haven Project Costs Paid
County Owned Nursing Homes in NY State
Resolution No. 152-2013:
Fmr. Ghent Town Supervisor Larry Andrews
"The Champion of Pine Haven"
1943 - 2013