Diana resumes Valley View sales push

Nursing home administrator offers no plan to address financial problems, agrees with Diana that Valley View should be privatized

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  • County Executive Edward Diana addresses law makers at the Health and Mental Health Committee Meeting on Wednesday, 9/19/2012. Photo by Joshua Rosenau

  • William Pascocello, the administrator of Valley View speaks about financial problems at the county-run nursing home on 9/19/2012. Photo by Joshua Rosenau

  • Valley View employees listen to William Pascocello, the home's administrator, at a committee meeting on 9/19/2012. Photo by Joshua Rosenau

— Orange County Executive Ed Diana reaffirmed his position Thursday that the county must sell Valley View nursing home to save money in next year's budget.

Diana and Valley View Administrator William Pascocello talked about Valley View before the legislature for the first time since lawmakers started an investigation into the home's finances and management. Both had refused to testify under oath during the investigation, which found that the home's deficits had more than doubled over the last nine years.

At Thursday's meeting, Pascocello, who crafts Valley View's annual budget, said it was possible to manage the home more soundly but offered no plan to address the home's financial failings.

Diana backed down from his earlier estimation that the home was running an annual deficit of roughly $20 million. The investigation put the deficit at less than $15 million. But either way, Diana said, it's still too much.

“Say we're right at $19 million," he said. "Say you're right at $15 million....That's a lot of money. Where do I find it?”

Diana said he will not raise taxes but would remain open to laying off county workers to balance expenses.

“Or we can do something reasonable with Valley View to keep it open, provide services, maybe enhance services, keep most of the jobs — like every other county is doing,” he said of privatizing the home. “That's the dilemma that we all are facing today — not just Ed Diana, but the 21 legislators, the public, the workers, the residents — we're all facing that dilemma.“

Pascocello, the man hired to run the county-owned facility, agreed that since costs have grown unpredictable and unsustainable, the nursing home should be sold.

“I recognize the point that other counties have come to: that the escalating cost and diminishing reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid is continuing to put them on a track to serious financial difficulties,” he said.

Pascocello is an employee of Orange Administrative Services (OAS), a nursing home management firm with ties to an outside union that organizes private sector workers.

Pascocello says problems are beyond his control

The firm is accused mismanaging the home and causing millions of dollars in overspending, according to the investigative report.
The investigative report listed Pascocello and Diana's shared view on the merits of selling Valley View as a possible reason behind the home's escalating expenses.
“Many suspect that OAS, while concerned about the residents and the quality of care provided at Valley View, is also primarily focused on positioning the facility for sale, rather than looking aggressively for ways to make Valley View more viable as a public entity," the report states.
Pascocello blamed Valley View's financial problems on outside causes.
“I have to tell you the cost structure is predicated on things outside the nursing home,” he said. “There is a collective bargaining agreement with the whole county that covers the whole workforce, and those salaries and benefits are dictated by that agreement.”
Pascocello delivered no plan to address Valley View's high costs. He said he has not yet crafted next year's budget because Diana has not instructed him to do so.
Legislator Michael Anagnostakis, a Republican representing Montgomery and Newburgh who served on the investigative committee, supported a measure to keep the county-run home and remove OAS.
"The legislature wants to do things the right way," he said. "There has to be a mindset change from the executive on down."
Trying to get a grasp on Valley View's expenses, legislators at the meeting wrestled with financial statements and audit reports that offered little agreement about the true costs of the home or the funds available to cover them.
“It's all political,” said Legislator Roxanne Donnery, a Democrat from Highland Falls and chair of the investigative committee. “This entire argument comes down to privatization — whether government is the villain and whether there is no longer accountability for taxpayers' dollars.”
Donnery said she expected Diana will continue to try to privatize Valley View despite the investigation's findings.
“The decision is going to be made within the budget, and that's not us," she said. That's the county executive's job."
The last day for Diana to submit a budget proposal is Oct. 1, according to a county schedule.

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