Pretty much everyone who’s been paying attention is disgusted by the way Sullivan County Legislative Chair Rob Doherty has attempted to push through the sale of the Adult Care Center in …
Pretty much everyone who’s been paying attention is disgusted by the way Sullivan County Legislative Chair Rob Doherty has attempted to push through the sale of the Adult Care Center in Liberty, NY with minimal public scrutiny. As he made plans to unload the center, even some county legislators were kept in the dark.
If the county-owned facility is sold, the lives of hundreds of county residents could be upended. It has 146 beds and employs nearly 200 people. Sale to a for-profit company would likely lead to a loss of jobs and a decline in the quality of care. (It’s an open secret that one of the quickest ways to make a buck in the business is to get rid of skilled workers and sedate patients so they can’t complain when they’re not getting the care they need.) Right now, under county ownership, the center has a four-star rating from Medicare. One prospective buyer, the for-profit Grand Nursing Services, already owns a string of nursing homes—almost half have a “below average” or “much below average” rating.
The center cannot be sold unless the county residents are first given the opportunity to comment, so Doherty tried to dispense with this obligation by scheduling a single 30-minute meeting for 8 o’clock on a Tuesday morning. Despite the unusually early hour, an overflow crowd showed up. Nevertheless, when the scheduled time had elapsed, Doherty tried to cut off public comment in order to hold a vote on a resolution that would transfer ownership of the center to a tightly controlled corporation that would likely do his bidding and not be answerable to the full legislature.
Fortunately, other legislators put on the brakes. Alan Sorenson insisted that everyone who came to speak must be heard. Ira Steingart said that the center should not put up for sale until the legislature has done its due diligence. Legislators Joe Perello, Luis Alvarez and Nadia Rajsz also objected to the secretive way in which Doherty was attempting to orchestrate the sale.
No doubt about it, the center is losing money every year, but there’s been no real attempt to see if it can be put on a firmer financial footing or to determine if there are better ways to close the county’s budget gap. Last year, Sullivan County gave businesses around nine million dollars in tax breaks. Year after year, it sinks money into an underutilized airport that benefits only a handful of county residents. If the county can afford to dole out tax breaks and perks for the wealthiest, can’t it find a way to care for its most vulnerable?
Bruce Ferguson is retired and lives in Callicoon Center, NY.