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Transfer of Van Duyn nursing home to private ownership considered a success

Ellen Abbott
The new 7th floor unit at the Van Duyn nursing home.

It’s been just over a year since Onondaga County got out of the business of running a nursing home. And according to Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, the sale of the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing to the Upstate Services Group has been a good move.

Mahoney toured the new 7th floor unit of Van Duyn last week.  It includes 54 beds with a state-of-the-art dedicated therapy gym meant for short term rehabilitation patients, often people recovering from knee replacements or strokes.  Mahoney says Upstate Services Group, which bought the facility for $5 million at the end of 2013, has made significant investments to the facility,

"That is more than we could have done as a county government. It was done very quickly, it’s beautiful,” said Mahoney.

Upstate Services -- which runs 10 other nursing homes across New York -- bought a facility that, under county operations, was losing millions of dollars a year, was the subject of at least 14 lawsuits, and was on the list of the 150 worst nursing homes in the country.

Upstate has been able to turn that around by hiring more nurses and aides, while also cutting benefits to employees. Upstate Nursing Home administrator Efaim Steif says the facility itself was in good shape when they bought it.

“This building was well maintained. All the mechanicals, the elevators, all the important stuff is working, we didn’t have to touch,” said Steif.

Van Duyn, as run by the government, was always meant to be the safety net home for poorer patients. The county wanted to make sure that stayed the same with private ownership.

“All of that is still the case, as a matter of fact, on our hard to place residents, the numbers are actually up,” said Mahoneyl.

Mahoney adds recent employee surveys shows they are happy with the change. Union opposition was one of the final stumbling blocks that had to be cleared for the sale to take place. In the end, Mahoney says she would suggest this option to other counties that are grappling with the same issues.

"I would say that it can be a win-win, as long as you’re working with a group like Upstate, and you have the commitment and the track record they have."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.