Friday, January 08, 2016
NorCo Council To Study Turning Gracedale Into a Non-Profit
By a 6-3 vote, Northampton County Council voted at their January 7 meeting to authorize a study, at no cost to the County, of the benefits and pitfalls of turning the County nursing home, Gracedale, into a tax exempt nonprofit corporation, commonly known as a 501c3. Gracedale's Administrator, Premier Healthcare Resources, will prepare the report, but has been specifically instructed that it the possibility of a sale to a private, for profit corporation, is off limits.
The meeting took place before a large crowd of both Gracedale and open space advocates. Earlier in the evening, Council adopted a "Livable Landscapes" Open Space Plan by an 8-1 vote. Despite a buzz that this plan would be rejected, only Hayden Phillips, who is philosophically opposed to open space funding, voted against it.
A plan to study the needs at the County's Civil War era jail passed unanimously. Even a study of the controversial topic of reassessment was quickly and unanimously approved.
But not Gracedale.
Peg Ferraro blasted the proposal. "Much has changed in the last two years since you voted to sell Gracedale," she told Council President John Cusick. She added that as a result of the many efficiencies introduced by Premier, Gracedale might soon be earning a profit.
Ken Kraft called the idea "ridiculous" and scoffed at the notion that there would be no cost. "Nobody does anything for free," he warned.
But Glenn Geissinger supported the no-cost study. While agreeing with former Council member Lamont McClure's dictum that Gracedale is a "moral obligation," Geissinger added that "[w]e have a fiduciary obligation to the citizens as a whole.... I have absolutely nothing against learning something for free."
Cusick defended the measure as a way of getting higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid, which are denied to publicly owned nursing homes.
The study was approved, with only Ferraro, Kraft and Bob Werner opposed. In casting her No vote, Ferraro called the measure "[t]he first step towards privatization." Cusick then lectured her, "During a rollcall, the proper answers are Yes, No and Abstain."
"I understand that, Mr. Cusick," she replied. "I've been around awhile."