MAYVILLE - Some cost-cutting measures for the Chautauqua County Home are realistic. Some are not, according to Tim Hellwig, administrator for the Dunkirk skilled nursing facility.
But the ad hoc committee charged with studying the financial viability of the County Home is sticking with a report completed by the Center for Governmental Research. That report outlines $2.3 million worth of cost-saving recommendations.
"I'm happy the way it went," said committee chairman John Runkle, R-Stockton, of Wednesday's highly publicized meeting.
"Everyone got the opportunity to say what was on their mind," he continued, "and we did exactly what we were charged with doing and that was determining the financial viability of the County Home and report it back to the legislature with suggestions for cost savings."
The CRG report notes $500,000 worth of savings if the County Home were to fully implement an electronic medical record keeping system. Hellwig said systems to handle record keeping already is in place, or will be implemented.
However, even with the installation of electronic medical records, savings would not be as significant as noted in the report, Hellwig said.
An ad hoc meeting Wednesday discussed a half-dozen cost-cutting recommendations for the Chautauqua County Home. Those recommendations will be forwarded to the full legislature for discussion.
P-J photo by Eric Tichy
"I find the projected cost savings of $500,000 to be fairly significantly overstated," he said.
The County Home could trim costs through attrition and shifting current employees to new departments, Hellwig said. The report projects $225,000 could be saved through attrition and $280,000 by making "better use" of existing therapy staff.
The home also could see savings if a gas well on the property were completed, but how much could be recognized is not known.
Increasing revenue by expanding private-pay and Medicare-funded residents may prove difficult. The CGR reports $425,000 in savings could be realized if the County Home's payer mix was altered.
Hellwig said bringing in Medicare and private-pay residents would be difficult, given the fact that the home is near full capacity.
"When we're full, we're full," he said, pointing out that almost 75 percent of County Home residents are on Medicaid.
The bulk of cutbacks needed for the County Home to stay solvent involves its workers. The CGR report recommends limits on salaries and benefits, and if recognized the home would save almost $1 million annually.
Two problems in discussing any concessions, however, were highlighted Wednesday: The union representing County Home workers (CSEA Unit 6300) and the county currently are at an impasse with a new labor contract. Secondly, legislature attorney Steve Abdella noted the ad hoc committee is not permitted to discuss union negotiations.
"The committee really cannot ... legally discuss changes to terms in conditions in employment," he said.
In several instances, Abdella was forced to intercede when discussions brought up cutbacks union workers would be willing to make.
Before ending, Runkle asked the 22-member committee what should be presented to the legislature, which meets Sept. 26 for its monthly voting session. The committee unanimously decided to back its financial viability report.
Runkle expects Hellwig to present his findings, as well.
"I've asked him to go back and look at those numbers again in terms of how realistic they are," he said. "But all in all it was the general consensus of the committee that we were going to go with the CGR report."
"There are some differences dollar wise," Runkle noted of the report and Hellwig's views.
In a recent strawpoll by The Post-Journal, 12 legislators said they would sell or lease the home if a vote were held today. Ten lawmakers would not sell, while three were undecided. The legislature needs a 17-vote supermajority to sell the county-owned facility.
Legislators in July learned of two offers made on the County Home, one by Absolut Care Facilities Management, LLC and Altitude Health Services Inc.
Absolut Care, which operates two nursing facilities in Chautauqua County, submitted an offer of $1.6 million a year with a purchase option of $16 million. Altitude Health offered $16.5 million for the Dunkirk facility.