Home sale can help Lake Shore workers

Last week we learned the terrible news that the Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification advising that 460 employees at Lake Shore Hospital could lose their jobs in 90 days.

These 460 jobs are primarily high skilled, high paid health care workers who are providing essential services to the people of the County. These RNs, LPNs, CNAs, therapists, counselors, finance professionals, and other employees have few options due to the downsizing of Health Care entities across the nation, much less in our county.

Next week, Chautauqua County legislators could give these very workers a chance to be re-employed in our county, doing the work that they love and are trained to do, receiving similar pay and benefits packages, and preventing these families from having to leave our County. How could the 25 Legislators directly impact the lives of these 460 people and their families and keep these friends and family members of their constituents here in our county?

The Legislators could vote to sell our County Home just like Ulster County did and this would result in VestraCare hiring most of the existing county employees and – here is the exciting opportunity – VestraCare will hire additional workers to add more services for more patients.

For example, when VestraCare first purchased the Ulster County Home it had two physical therapists and within three months VestraCare hired six more physical therapists. When they purchased the Susquehanna nursing facility, there were three physical therapists and now it has 13. Lake Shore hospital employs physical therapists and currently the Chautauqua County Home has two physical therapists. VestraCare has already identified their desire to expand the Physical Therapy offered at the County Home if they are allowed to purchase the facility, which would mean job opportunities for our friends and family members currently working at Lake Shore.

Physical therapy is only one of 29 areas that VestraCare is interested in expanding and there are additional services that VestraCare would like to offer at the County Home location if they were authorized by our county legislators to buy the facility. Some of the services that VestraCare is interested in offering that do not currently exist or could be expanded upon at the facility are: adult day care medical program; enhanced activities for memory care; geriatric psychosocial services; Hospice and palliative care; IV therapy, KCI wound VAC therapy; orthopedic rehab; outpatient rehab; Parkinson’s program; rehabilitation devices; respiratory therapy; and specialized cardiac rehab

These new and expanded services all require people to deliver the services and they open up additional opportunities for some of the 460 Lake Shore Hospital employees to stay employed and in our community.

From the experience of our brokers Marcus & Millichap at the national level, and as shown by the Ulster County sale to VestraCare, a number of workers at county facilities elect to either retire, or move laterally into other county jobs when a nursing home is privatized. These natural, voluntary, decisions by current employees could create more job openings for more healthcare workers at Lakeshore to find jobs.

This private, taxpaying business, wants to pay the county $16.5 million to buy the Chautauqua County Home, resulting in more jobs, a profit of about $7 million to the county, and improved and expanded services to the people of our county.

The only thing standing in the way of this opportunity for good news for some of the 460 employees afraid for their futures and the futures of their families are the legislators who are opposing the sale of the County Home to VestraCare.

On Wednesday, we will see if our legislators are willing to help these families, current County Home employees, and all of the county, or not.

Gregory Edwards is the Chautauqua County executive.