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Onondaga County plans to privatize nursing home

On October 9, the Onondaga County Legislature will vote on its 2013 budget. The budget totals $1.24 billion, approximately two million dollars larger than last year. The controversy that surfaced at the budget’s public hearing Thursday evening was about ownership changes for Van Duyn Home and Hospital, the county’s nursing home.Colleen Wheaton, president of the local Civil Service Employees Association, attended the hearing to urge the legislators to reconsider their plan to privatize Van Duyn. She cited the example of Delaware County, which privatized its nursing home in 2006.

“They were promised that no county resident would ever be turned away for lack of funds,” Wheaton said. “Now, six short years later, the reality is very different from the promises that were made.”

Wheaton and her colleague, Phil Graham, noted that the majority of Van Duyn residents are Medicaid patients. Graham expressed concern that the county’s elderly would lose their “safety net.”

But Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says the transition is necessary because state funding for the home has not increased since 1989.

“Van Duyn, as is, is going to run a $115 million deficit over the next nine years,” he said. “That will bankrupt Onondaga County.”

 McMahon said the county tried unsuccessfully to work out a deal with Upstate Medical University. Another private company is expected to take over in late 2013.