A private company, the Upstate Services Group, purchased the Van Duyn Home and Hospital in November 2013 from Onondaga County for $5 million. Known as the “safety net” home for poor patients who can’t afford to go elsewhere, the 513- bed facility was placed on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s (CMS) Special Focus Facility watchlist after receiving numerous deficiencies from the Department of Health. According to Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, the nursing home was losing millions of dollars a year for the local government. In addition, families of 14 residents at the facility have pending legal cases against the county alleging the facility caused injuries or deaths of elderly relatives. In October 2013, the county paid $250,000 to a family of a 97-year-old patient who died in 2011 after her broken leg went untreated for days.
After hiring a consultant and increasing staff training, the nursing home came off the watchlist in November 2013. Van Duyn Administrator Maureen Cerniglia stated that she and her staff worked hard to improve the care at the facility. She said, “We’ve done a very good job. We’ve had two solid years.”
The new owners, Uri Koenig, a certified public accountant, and Efraim Steif, a nursing home administrator, currently own or operate twelve nursing homes in New York, including the Central Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a facility that was once on the government’s watchlist. Since taking over the facility in 2008, the center was removed from the list and has shown a “consistent high level of care,” according to the Department of Health. Moreover, in a recent report, the Department of Health stated that the new owner of Van Duyn will improve the “financial stability and quality of care” of the home.
Upstate Services’ Chief Operating Officer David Camerota stated that the company is hiring eight new nurses and 16 aides to improve the quality of care at Van Duyn. In addition, Camerota stated that the firm plans on renovating and opening a wing that was once shut down by the county. Moreover, the COO pointed out that his company expects to make a $500,000 profit during its first year of ownership by cutting employee benefits. For instance, employees will receive less vacation time, be required to pay more towards health benefits, and will no longer get credit towards a state pension.
Representatives from the Civil Services Employees Union Stated that employee contributions towards health premiums will double under the new owner. The CSEA tried to block the sale of the facility but lost the case in Supreme Court.
Camerota stated that the changes are fair to the employees. He stated, “We will be instituting a plan that we feel is competitive in the marketplace.”
Former County Legislator Chairman Jim Rhinehart said that he is optimistic about the changes. He said, “A lot of people were convinced that Van Duyn would have to close. There’s no reason why the private sector can’t be successful there and provide good service to the community.”
Website Resource: Van Duyn nursing home gets new life as Onondaga County cedes control to private firm, syracuse.com, Glenn Coin, December 1, 2013