Another Disgrace For The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors

For sixteen years I was the executive director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (President Johnson’s war on poverty).  During that time I frequently worked with the Saratoga County Public Health Nursing Service.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I admired these women (they were all women).

Their work with my agency was above and beyond their normal duties but these women, who visited homebound elderly and disabled, did whatever it took to help the people they were caring for.

I was appalled to read in today’s Gazette that Saratoga County is discontinuing this agency’s home nursing services.  The county alleges that there has been a dropping demand for these services and that the program has been losing money.

Of course, in the spirit of the way the county is run, the nurses were notified on the same day that the county publicly announced that it would discontinue the service.  According to the Gazette, as early as November, the county had applied to the New York State Health Department to end the service.  Apparently, they have given thirty days notice to both the employees and the people being served that the service will end.  I have no idea how difficult it will be for the existing clients to find another source.  I feel just as confident that the county has done no planning for transitioning the clients since they have kept this entire business secret.

One might ask, why is it that private agencies can make this service work financially but our county cannot?  People asked the same questions when the county closed our nursing home and sold it to a private for profit corporation.  They never got an answer.

So what happened with transparency?  Wouldn’t a decision like this involve some sort of public debate by the county supervisors and some sort of vote?  I know it is rather quaint of me to ask that question.

So where are our Supervisors?  In the past I would have emailed them about this but I have learned that both Peter Martin and Matt Veitch are incapable of action in these matters or of thoughtfully responding.  I will save Supervisor Veitch the trouble of emailing me his response.  He will simply repeat the position of the County Administrator that the service loses money and that other private agencies will fill the gap.  If I ask him to offer any proof of these assertions he will simply tell me that the issue is closed.  Peter Martin will email me back that he is forwarding my email to the County Administrator.

Neither of these two men will have any idea about the harm that this may do to some very vulnerable people.  They simply do not care.

Here is the story:

Saratoga County to end home nursing visits

Layoffs of 12 nurses, six clerical staff also announced

The Saratoga County Public Health Nursing Service is going out of the home nursing business next month, with the anticipated layoff of 18 county employees.

County officials said the county will stop doing home visit nursing on March 22, with an anticipated layoff of a dozen nurses and a half-dozen clerical staff.

County officials said the change is driven by dropping demand for the service and its financial losses, but the county employees’ union, the Civil Service Employees’ Association, is expressing outrage.

The union said the information only reached it on Thursday — the same day the county announced the service elimination to the public, though without revealing the pending job cuts.

“CSEA has learned that the county laid out plans over a several-month period beginning in October continuing straight through to discussions with the state Department of Health,” said CSEA Regional President Kathy Garrison. “All actions on the part of county officials were carried out in secrecy with no notice to employees or residents. CSEA received notice yesterday.”

According to the county’s statement released late Thursday, last summer the Board of Supervisors hired an outside consultant to complete an analysis of the county’s certified home health agency, which recommended the county exit the business, in part because the service is also available privately. There is no record, however, of that report having been made public.

The request to close the program was submitted to the state Department of Health last November, county officials said, and was recently approved by DOH.

Giving 30 days notice that the services will end, the county can also stop taking any new referrals, effective immediately.

County Administrator Spencer Hellwig noted that the changing health care landscape and financial losses of home nursing services mean many other counties have also dropped the service in recent years.

“In 2012, there was 36 counties with certified home health programs, and now there are 12,” he said on Friday.

None of the other counties in the Capital Region provide county-funded home nursing, according to a Health Department data base.

The number of referrals for home care from hospitals or doctors has been dropping, and the county has been losing money providing the service, officials said, despite Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance reimbursements.

Hellwig said the county lost $316,000 providing the service in 2014, and will have lost around $350,000 in 2015, once figures are finalized.

The same kind of services are available from six non-government nursing services that provide “excellent” care, county officials said.

The nursing service has 86 employees, 29 of whom work in the home health care program. Hellwig said 11 will be moving into other jobs, while the details of the layoffs still need to be negotiated with CSEA officials.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, a former county supervisor, said she was concerned about both the loss of services and the loss of jobs.

“As mayor I can say I’m very concerned and I can only imagine what the residents feel when they get the letter saying the service will no longer be provided,” she said.

The public health nursing department, based in the county’s Saratoga Springs office building, has been slowly transitioning into a more broad-based public health agency for at least a decade.

The nursing service is putting more attention on addressing public health issues like reducing smoking, providing immunizations, screening for lead exposure, evaluating community health risks, and addressing concerns about communicable diseases.

The state Health Department has pressured the county to create a more full-service public health department, getting away from the in-home nursing mission.

According to the county announcement, the nursing service will stop taking Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance payments for providing home health care at the end of the business day on March 21.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

 

11 thoughts on “Another Disgrace For The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors”

  1. John, once again, good reporting. Not everyone subscribes to the Daily Gazette, so this can be considered “breaking news.”
    I understand that the County is losing money with this program.
    And this probably makes sense. We must put some trust in our County Supervisors. Pity the people who have depended on the program for their jobs. And pity the seniors who will need to find another way to get regular medical checkups. Life goes on.

    Yet……
    The County Mental Health Dept. has a brand new, cozy, plush, well-staffed office on South Broadway. The old Topper Buick building. It costs us over $23,000 each month to pay Frank Parillo for the lease on the building.
    Frank paid a paltry $1,300,000 to buy the building from the owner……who was desperate to sell this white elephant. It was polluted with gas and oil because it was used as a car dealership for years.

    But, no problem, the County paid to clean up the pollution.
    And, no problem, the county spent over a half million to improve the property, pave a parking lot, do landscaping, and make the building environmentally friendly.
    Mental patients can smoke on the property, get free psychological care, and probably get free meds. Free transportation too. Who knows what this program costs the taxpayers?
    But….forget about the seniors, they are expendable…….unless they have mental problems………

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      1. Merlin, It is not proper for you to make statements that are patently false or would lead one to believe I am unethical. What “gift” did I provide? While I do consider Mr. Parillo a friend (and many people in this community friends) this is the letter I sent to the Planning Board for the 3/13/2013 meeting in which they discussed the Mental Health Facility on South Broadway. I am able to do my duties as a “Commissioner” and still have friendly relationships. Thank you, Commissioner Michele Madigan
        _To the Planning Board_
        This is a follow-up to my email dated 2/27/2013 to the Planning Board regarding 135 South Broadway, special use permit for office, medical offices/clinics in the Transect-5 District. I understand this will be discussed and possibly voted on at the Planning Board meeting tonight and I want to ensure that the Planning Board has reviewed this location to ensure there is not an adverse affect on “long-term economic viability of the proposed site, neighboring properties and districts.”
        I continue to have strong concerns over the placement of a medical facility on South Broadway. I believe a medical facility is not in sync with the character or economy of this area of our city and believe there are more beneficial uses for this site location.
        I am in support of a medical center, and understand the Planning Board is charged with reviewing this particular location for the proposed medical facility. However, I believe this is not the appropriate site for such a facility and reiterate my opinion that the proposed facility is not in-line with the economic viability of this area.
        Perhaps the Planning Board could consider this medical facility in the future when a more desirable location in Saratoga County and/or Saratoga Springs, is brought forward for review.
        I am happy to discuss my concerns with you or any member of the Planning Board. Thank you.
        Michele Madigan Commissioner of Finance

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so very sorry to hear this…a real shame. After surgery in 2009, I needed the services of the county health nurses to come and change dressing and monitor my recovery. Due to an unexpected 2nd surgery two months later, all total they came to my home every day for 3 1/2 months. They were a godsend and so caring, and fu my. They really lifted my spirits. I cannot imagine elderly people who need care at home…what will they do now? This is unconscionable and they should be ashamed of themselves!

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  3. The rationales offered by our County officials in this instance are as question-provoking as they are dismaying. With the numbers of elderly people rising, and increased awareness of disability-related needs across the country, I had to wonder: what survey method was used to come up with the “dropping demand” assessment? I would have thought that a survey and statistical analysis which might lead to this kind of drastic action would gotten broad attention. (And, as a corollary, why did the NYS Department of Health not require the County to, at a bare minimum, honor the “transparency” mantra which the State and local governments are so fond of parroting before going forward with drastic action?)

    The overarching issue here is one of government’s sensibilities and values — which is to say, those of its officials in charge. Are the administrators and Supervisors in our County really meaning to suggest that any longstanding function which does not pay for itself, regardless of community need, is now subject to elimination? If so, maybe they should look in the mirror to find their next targets.

    Picking on needy people with the least ability to fight for themselves is simply unworthy of public officials purporting to act on our behalf, in the public interest. It’s also offensive. As my grandmother would have intoned — “there are some people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

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  4. John,Assuming this gets to you, you will find attached below a summary of the results of an NYS Association of County Health Officials survey of county nurse home visiting programs.  The survey, as I understand it, was limited to county home visiting programs focused on pregnant mothers and new parents with the goal of making sure that any questions they had about their new family member was answered and, if there were problems that the women/families could be referred to services.  I was surprised that 40 counties had such services.  While I am not an expert on health funding, the counties that responded are finding various ways of funding these services.  I do know that the historical source for funding these programs, Title 6, has dried up to some degree and is focused on other priorities, but 40 counties are finding a way to keep at least this type of county nurse home visiting program going.Bob PS I am also a great fan of public health nurses 

    From: saratogaspringspolitics To: Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2016 6:27 PM Subject: [New post] Another Disgrace For The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors #yiv9302340346 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9302340346 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9302340346 a.yiv9302340346primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9302340346 a.yiv9302340346primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9302340346 a.yiv9302340346primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9302340346 a.yiv9302340346primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9302340346 WordPress.com | John Kaufmann posted: “For sixteen years I was the executive director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (President Johnson’s war on poverty).  During that time I frequently worked with the Saratoga County Public Health Nursing Service.  I cannot begin to tell ” | |

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  5. What happens when a raging infective disease should occur in Saratoga County?

    Public Health nurses have always responded appropriately in an organized manner! They have had the training for that and other community wide medical problems.

    Can for profit nursing companies respond?

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  6. What gets me about the Board of Supervisors (in addition to their heartlessness) is how phony they are. They present themselves as fiscal conservatives and claim they have to eliminate all these services because they are losing money. Yet they only ended their relationship with Siemens because the new owner of the County Nursing Home required it even though they were hemorhaging money for years in that deal. Unlike Warren County our Supervisors don’t even want to bother to find out why they lost all that money or see if they could recoup some of it. And they have no problem paying a six figure salary to someone like Michael Prezioso in spite of the raft of complaints about his mismanagement of the County Mental Health Department. Oh, and then there is the salary that is continued to be paid to the County Public Defender even after he was caught on tape trying to get the Saratoga police to drop DWI charges against him. Hardly the picture of a well run efficient county. Maybe, just maybe they could squeeze a little money out of some of these other places and actually keep services that the citizens they represent need rather than squander our dollars on jobs for their friends and contracts that don’t deliver. But we have not heard even one Supervisor speak up about any of this. Shame on our Supervisors Matt Vietch and Peter Martin and shame on all their fellow Supervisors who sit in imperial silence while dollars are squandered and the welfare of the most vulnerable in the county is jeopardized.

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  7. What sincerely bothers me is the comments against three VERY good and HONEST city officials here. I’ve come to know them all in my own work for housing here, and know all three of these people would NEVER do anything negative against this city or it’s citizens. Michele has already replied on her behalf, but knowing both Matt (a conservative) and Peter (liberal), both would have a perfectly legitimate reason to why this happened. They truly have no reason to lie to anyone.

    This isn’t a knock against John, so please don’t take it that way, but this is a BLOG. That doesn’t make it FACT – nor does it make it fiction either. It’s one man’s opinion, nothing more. We need more answers, not more conjecture.

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