LOCAL VOICES: Care facility cuts wouldn't help county budget

By BRAD STORER Administrator, Erie County Care Facility When reading the Aug. 1 Register, I came across the "Thumbs Up
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Administrator, Erie County Care Facility

When reading the Aug. 1 Register, I came across the "Thumbs Up to Erie County government for finally recognizing the need to cut, cut, cut. Let's look at everything, including privatizing the Erie County Care Facility -- a nice thing to have but Ottawa County's big Riverview Complex withstanding, how many counties run nursing homes?" it became clear to me there is a misperception of how the Erie County Care Facility is funded and operated.

To answer the question, there are 36 county owned nursing homes in Ohio run in a variety of ways.

The Erie County Care Facility is operated as a skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. We are thought of as a safety net, often taking difficult residents with a high cost of care and questionable ability to pay. The notion that cutting the Erie County Care Facility to save the County General Fund is incorrect.

The Care Facility has in the past 10 years (my term as Administrator) paid nearly 1.5 million dollars to the General Fund as an Administrative fee to belong to the county. The Care Facility also pays $1.2 million per year (17 percent of total) to the county's self-insured trust fund for employee's health insurance benefits.

The Care Facility is home to 135 residents and employs 140 union and non-union workers (the largest number of county employees).

Recently the Care Facility has had to ask to borrow General Fund dollars to aid the operation. This is mainly due to declining census and a three-year freeze on Medicaid funding.

Nearly 50 percent of all our admissions in the past three years have returned home within 45 days, a very different reality from what nursing homes are thought to be.

In November the Care Facility will ask for a five-year, 0.5-mill levy to help support our operation. This levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home less than a nickel a day. Many of the other counties, including Ottawa, have levies to support their county homes. Erie County has had a facility for 153 years, the last 30 without use of General Fund dollars. A short-term levy was used in the mid-1970s to build the new facility in Osborn Park, this levy will also be short-term.

With community support in November, the Erie County Care Facility will remain a viable option for the health care needs of our county's most vulnerable citizens.