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County consultant: Local offers ‘viable’

Reviews upbeat for Littauer, Mountain Valley Hospice

March 31, 2010
By MICHAEL ANICH, The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN - Fulton County's consultant in the possible privatization of the Residential Health Care Facility and Nursing Service said Tuesday the two local proposals to take them over are "viable," but more information is needed.

Donald Pryor, project director for the Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research, used that term to refer to proposals from Nathan Littauer Hospital and Mountain Valley Hospice. The hospital's was one of four responses to requests for proposals received by the county to take over the county nursing home.

The local hospice submitted the sole proposal to assume ownership of the county nursing service.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich

Donald Pryor, project director for the Center for Governmental Research, speaks to a Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ steering committee Tuesday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. At left is CGR Senior Research Associate Maria Hyoob.

"Frankly, there are more questions on the table than answers from all of the proposers," Pryor told the county's RHCF Modeling Study Steering Committee during a two-hour presentation Tuesday at the County Office Building.

The committee decided to have Pryor contact all the vendors to answer questions in the next three weeks, and the panel may reconvene in May.

Ron Briggs, president of Local 818, Civil Service Employees Association, urged supervisors not to sell the infirmary. He said the staff has improved the "stagnant" past operations.

"I think this is a different time," Briggs said. "I think the employees understand that. I think management understands that, and we can work together."

Several members of the public and infirmary residents attended Tuesday's meeting.

On Tuesday, CGR released a report containing summary information on the five responses. Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Fagan said information about the proposals will be made available to the public by contacting the board office and paying 25 cents per page. The information is also being made available at the Gloversville and Johnstown public libraries for free inspection.

In addition to Nathan Littauer Hospital, other vendors wishing to take over the infirmary were: Centers for Specialty Care of the Bronx, Leatherstocking Healthcare of Herkimer, and the Pharney Group of Tarrytown.

In reviewing Nathan Littauer Hospital's proposal, Pryor stated: "It appears to be a financially viable proposal."

He said the private not-for-profit corporation had net assets of roughly $48 million for both 2007 and 2008.

"The financial position of [the hospital] is such that the offer to purchase the Fulton County RHCF involves a cash payment from cash reserves," the report stated.

Pryor said CGR is not making public at this time how much the vendors would be willing to pay for the entities. That information also is being redacted from the copies of the proposals being made public.

"They do offer an integrated array of services," Pryor said of Nathan Littauer Hospital. "It appears to be relatively similar staffing patterns that the RHCF operates."

The report found that "the proposal appeared to offer no specific guarantees to ensure future commitments of employment to current staff, although all current RHCF employees will be invited to apply to continue at their current positions."

In reviewing Mountain Valley Hospice's proposal to take over the county nursing service, Pryor said the report found that it has doubled the people it has served since 2002.

"They have grown their business substantially," Pryor said.

The report stated this in summary of the hospice proposal: "This appears to be a very carefully conceived proposal, from an organization that already appears to have solid community credentials and a strong local reputation, supplemented by a strong community volunteer network."

The remaining proposals were from for-profit groups, such as the Pharney Group LLC, which is currently involved in operation of 11 skilled nursing facilities in New York state totalling 1,400 beds.

"There is much more we would need to know about Pharney Group and what they are proposing, but they appear to have sufficient relevant experience and financial resources," CGR said.

Pryor said Leatherstocking Health Care only operates one facility - Folts Homes Inc. in Herkimer County.

"Frankly, this is the least financially viable of the proposals we received," he said. "They don't have deep pockets. They're a relatively small corporation."

The other proposal was from Centers for Specialty Care, mostly based in the New York City area.



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