By: Sanford R. Altman, Esq., retired

While the process of privatizing Orange County’s nursing home has been fraught with accusations of favoritism, secrecy and political arm-twisting, none of these is among the main concerns of seniors and their families.

What seniors want to know is, “How will the privatization of Valley View impact my life if I ever need long-term care?” and “Will it still be around if I need it in the future?”

These questions take on a special urgency in the case of Valley View, which has become, over the years, one of the most preferred skilled nursing facilities in the area.

How do I know this? I hear raves from my clients and their families about the quality of care. Comments from years ago of “Let’s get rid of the thing!” have changed to “Let’s save it at any cost!”

In the old days, privatization might have gone through virtually unnoticed, but that is not the case today.

So what are the dangers, perceived or real? The primary concern is that someone will take it over, milk it and close it or change it into something else, like a gym, a resort or condos. This would deprive the county of over 300 nursing home beds that cannot be absorbed by any other local facilities, meaning residents would be sent far from their families. Alternatively, the staff may be severely cut to save money, and care would suffer drastically.

In order to ameliorate these concerns and hopefully provide seniors with the security that they deserve, any successful bidder for purchasing Valley View should be required to make the following commitments in writing:

  1. Valley View shall remain open as a nursing home for a minimum of five years;
  2. The staff-to-resident ratio shall be maintained at least at the present level, as will the level of experience of the staff;
  3. There shall be no reduction in the number of nursing home beds;
  4. The purchaser shall commit to running the facility itself and neither sell the facility nor contract out the management for a minimum of five years.

It is important to note that the above has been endorsed by the Orange County Office for the Aging Advisory Council, of which I am a member.

Since it is my understanding that almost all of the departments in the county government are losing money (which makes sense since the county government’s job it to provide services to its residence and not to turn a profit), one wonders why a facility that serves seniors has been targeted. For example, why not privatize the jail, as they do in other locations? Perhaps Valley View was chosen because the government thinks that seniors and their families are not paying attention. Or that they don’t vote. But we do.

An intriguing and worthwhile proposal from county Legislator Mike Anagnostakis, a strong senior advocate, is that if Valley View is sold to save money for the county, a portion of the savings should go back to seniors, perhaps in the form of reducing their property taxes. Imagine that. Actually paying back seniors for reducing the services for which they have paid all their lives.

Fairness. What a concept.