County to entertain bids to sell nursing home

The move to sell the county nursing home is going full steam ahead. The Republicans now in control of the freeholder board made compelling arguments in favor of a sale that were more than just the adage “the county doesn’t belong in the nursing home business” which didn’t really cut it with me.  In Tuesday’s meeting they came forward with arguments that made sense.

Sheppard was one of those on the board who was most adamant about selling, and selling quickly.

“In the situation we’re in now, I’m afraid that if we don’t sell, there’s going to be severe cuts all over the county, and job cuts all over other county departments,” said Sheppard. “We have to determine what we need and what we have to do — we need a jail, we need a prosecutor’s office, we need a department of streets and roads.

“We don’t need to run a nursing home.”

True, we don’t “need”. But, if there is a way to run a quality care facility and earn revenue, wouldn’t that revenue be better served in the county coffers than in the pockets of some company that doesn’t even have roots in south Jersey? There is also the concern of reducing wages to an unlivable rate, or the loss of local jobs in favor of employees from other counties. And what about the quality of care?

Sheppard stated he looked up the nine closest nursing homes in a 25-mile radius from Cedarville, and added that federal Medicare ratings showed that Cumberland Manor received one out of five stars.

Mater Dei Nursing Home, in Newfield, a church-run non-profit facility, received five out of five starts in the ratings.

“The point is, patients will not be worse off in a private nursing home,” added Sheppard. “As for employee concerns, we can present an alternative bid, with either the employee contracts as is, or with a fair living wage.”

Good point. I read the two state inspection reports on the manor, and the reports were truly embarrassing. Nurses ignored patients calls. Medicines were switched. Some patients had the emergency call cord tied up out of their reach. The reports went on for 50 pages listing shortcomings that were more and more egregious with each complaint. In the first inspection, the complaints were addressed – only to appear again the following year. Many patients were not treated with dignity, according to the reports, and those charges were never challenged by the Manor.

Freeholder Carl Kirstein stated that while he took comments from those who support keeping the Manor under county control to hear, he still believes selling is the best option.

“At the public hearings, it was all very emotional, with people who would be directly affected by it, but there wasn’t a good business sense,” he said. “This has to be — going into the freeholder board, people always told me you have to run the county like a business — treat it like a business.

A good argument. Everybody in the county screams at the prospect of tax increases, and the county portion of our property tax is a large chunk. Yet, when it comes to making difficult decisions, nobody wants to take the hard line of making a cut that benefits them personally – they only want to take away from someone else’s slice of the pie.

Perhaps it is time to sell off the landfill, and dismantle the CCIA which is nothing more than a way to reward party loyalists with a cushy position. While we are at it, somebody needs to take a close look at the CCUA, also. The City of Millville has its own waste treatment plant – so why are there Millville residents on that board?

Dunkins did bring up a valid point – the loss of PEER funds when the Manor sells.

Of all of the freeholders present during Tuesday’s work session — Freeholder Jane Jannarone was absent — Deputy Director Dunkins seemed the most apprehensive about any potential sale.

“I think there are too many variables, from the loss of PEER Group funds to the potential loss of jobs and fair wages for the workers there,” said Dunkins. “We can’t balance the budget on the back of the poor people here.

PEER funds are contingent upon the county owning and  running the facility. These funds are substantial, and provide for services to the elderly and the blind. Do we just cut them off because it is a good business decision, let the old people eat cat food (Meals on Wheels benefits from PEER).

Jannarone was absent once again. Does anybody want to bet that she will miss the rest of the meetings this year? Talk about a poor loser, she is showing the full breadth of her disdain for the residents of Cumberland County by failing to show up and perform the duties she was elected to perform. She took an oath to fulfill these duties to the best of her ability – we see just how good her word is.  Her actions are truly pathetic.

MWatch will continue to follow this story. Personally I have no stake in the Manor whatsoever. In the end, the freeholders have to make the decision that makes the most financial sense. But every variable has to be scrutinized – the fact is that the Manor is the only department in the county that brings in revenue. Getting rid of the Manor this year only to face tax increases in the future is not acceptable.

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