JOHNSTOWN -The Wells Nursing Home is experiencing "significant" financial difficulties. This summer the nursing home discontinued some employee benefits, including ones involving health insurance and pension matches.
But Administrator Neil VanSlyke said Friday the facility won't be closing and is working through cost-saving measures to deal with cutbacks in funding from the state.
"It is what we've been experiencing over the last couple years," VanSlyke said. "The biggest issue is Medicaid rate cuts."
The Wells Nursing Home in Johnstown is shown Friday.
Wells Nursing Home Board of Directors President Peter K. Smith said Friday the local issues originate with the state.
"Non-profit nursing homes throughout New York state face challenges under the state's Medicaid reimbursement problems," Smith said.
Fulton County officials complained about reimbursement problems before the county sold its former Residential Health Care Facility last spring to a private company from New York City.
VanSlyke, the Wells Nursing Home's 12-year administrator, said the state sets Medicaid rates daily and "adjusts them over time," usually retroactively.
"We've had a couple of audits done," he said. "It's really part of the state budget process."
He said the benefits cut were chosen by going with what would effect the employees least, and also to "avoid layoffs." He said his facility is taking a "short-term approach" to addressing financial difficulties. He said his health care facility is "kind of like other businesses" dealing with the economy.
"The message is we're not looking at closing the facility," VanSlyke said.
The private, not-for-profit Wells Nursing Home located at 201 W. Madison Ave. was established in 1970. It employs about 160 full and part-time employees. It is a skilled nursing facility, which includes a 100 bed, skilled nursing home, Adult Day Health Program and outpatient rehabilitation services.
In an Aug. 23 memo VanSlyke wrote to all staff, the administrator informed employees of fiscal problems, which he said Friday are impacting many nursing homes in New York state.
"Wells Nursing Home continues to experience significant financial difficulties due to New York state implementing Medicaid cuts and audit money takebacks applied to nursing homes," VanSlyke wrote.
Due to the situation, he informed staff that effective immediately, the nursing home was discontinuing its health insurance buyback, vision and dental benefits and a board pension match.
It was also noted in the Aug. 23 memo that in the next three weeks, free coffee for employees would be discontinued.
"A coffee vending machine will be in the employee break room which will offer a variety of hot beverages to be purchased," VanSlyke wrote. "We are currently working with the vending company to keep pricing as low as possible for these hot beverages."
The memo goes on to say all vision-dental invoices dated after Aug. 23 will not be reimbursed.
Discontinuation of the board pension match was due to start with the nursing home's Aug. 20-Sept. 2 pay period, the memo added.
"It is important to note the cuts are not a reflection on anything other than to assist the Wells organization financially," VanSlyke wrote. "It is also important to let you all know these discontinuations have a very good possibility of being reinstated if and when the organization begins to become more financially stable. I will let you all know when this occurs."
VanSlyke told the staff that if the dicontinuations "cause any inconvenience or anger, I understand and apologize for the inconvenience. However, these are steps our organization must currently take."
"Also, the discontinuation of these benefits does not diminish the tremendous job you all do for the Wells organization," the memo stated.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org