August 1, 2008

Albany County Considers Nursing Home Buyouts: Officials Say There Are Too Many Workers After Closure of Other Facility

By Carol DeMare, Albany Times Union, N.Y.

Aug. 1--COLONIE -- Legislative approval is being sought for a buyout program for some Albany County Nursing Home employees to scale back the staff by up to 60 workers, officials said.

The "voluntary separation" program comes after the closure in January of the county's other nursing facility, Ann Lee Home, whose employees were transferred to the county nursing home.

"Essentially, we had two facilities and now we have one," county spokeswoman Kerri Battle said. "And we still have staff for two.

Even with attrition, the staff was not reduced enough, according to a letter sent to the counsels for the County Legislature's Democratic majority and Republican minority, seeking the lawmakers' approval of the program.

Battle emphasized the positions targeted under the proposed incentive "are not direct care." Instead, the jobs involve housekeeping, administration and custodial and food services.

If 50 employees take advantage of the job-cutting program, the county would save $2.3 million in savings in the 2009 executive budget, which comes out in October, she said.

For the last two years, the nursing home has come under fire from residents' relatives. At the public forums preceding the Legislature's monthly meetings, members of the nursing home's Family Council contend that their loved ones are not getting good care, the facility is short-staffed and some of the elderly people who require help with meals are neglected.

Battle rejects those allegations. "Albany County Nursing Home provides 15 percent more hours of nursing and nurse-aide care to each patient than any other nursing home" in the county, she said.

A resolution before the legislature's Personnel Committee authorizing the buyouts was tabled Wednesday, making it uncertain whether the matter will go before the lawmakers at their next meeting on Aug. 11.

On Thursday, the committee's chairman, Cohoes Democrat Shawn Morse, cited several reasons for postponing the panel's vote, including that it wants a list from nursing home officials of the precise positions and the number of workers who could opt to leave.

"I want to be sure that it is perfectly clear to those people that if they accepted this incentive, they know exactly what they are getting into," Morse said. "I did not want anybody accepting something and then finding out it was not exactly what they thought it would be."

The committee also wants assurances the employees have met with their union representatives. Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union represents most of the workers.

Morse said once the information is provided and committee members are satisfied, he could call a special meeting of his committee. Otherwise, approval would wait until September. DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at [email protected]


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