County Home savings hitting their mark

MAYVILLE – Measures enacted this year to reduce operating costs at the Chautauqua County Home are on track, legislators were told Wednesday.

Tim Hellwig, county home administrator, delivered a status update during the legislature’s Human Services Committee. Hellwig said cost-saving recommendations outlined in a Center for Governmental Research report currently are hitting their marks.

“I think we are on track,” he said of projected savings. “The bottom line: I think what we’ve done so far has reduced a number of expenses.”

Through layoffs and attrition this year, the skilled nursing facility is expected to save more than $200,000. Positions no longer at the home include: a custodian, ward clerk, operations assistant, food service supervisor and typist.

Seven other positions that fluctuate throughout the year also are expected to save more than $13,000.

The County Home also has increased the number of private and Medicare residents, which bring in higher reimbursement rates than residents using Medicaid. Hellwig said, although skeptical at first, the facility has seen an increase in private residents this year.

“It appears that I underestimated what we can do,” Hellwig said. “We have already hit those targets (in the CGR report) for the year. Private-pay residents maximize our profits.”

To increase efficiency, the County Home has implemented an electronic medical record-keeping system. Tablets used by nursing staff have been deployed, which allow easier documentation. Of the five tablets slated to be implemented in 2013, four currently are in use.

Benefit packages and salaries also were discussed in the CGR report. Through further layoffs, the County Home could see a decrease in costs of benefits, legislators were told.

Automatic step increases for 75 new hires have cost the County Home more than $45,000 this year.

Merit-based and incremental increases required by the CSEA salary schedule are being honored as well.

However, without a new collective bargaining agreement, little progress in terms of cost reductions recommended in the CGR report have been realized, Hellwig said.

Asked to sum up this year in regard to overall savings, he said, “We are where we should be.”

Another financial report on the County Home will be given next month to the committee.