Lyons, N.Y.— On Tuesday night, the Wayne County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a resolution that would privatize the food, maintenance and housekeeping departments at the county-run nursing home. As a result, 74 people will be laid off and Sodexo will take over the services. The county estimates privatizing these services will save $880,000.
Before the decision, about a half a dozen nursing home employees, residents and their family members took turns speaking out against the resolution—saying the quality of care at the nursing home will be negatively affected if they hire cheaper employees.
The courtroom was packed with at least 100 people and they resounded in applause after each speaker. But despite their overwhelming turnout at the meeting, the people against the resolution went home disappointed.
In a 781 to 408 weighted vote, the board decided to pass the resolution. Eight supervisors voted for the resolution and seven voted against.
“I don't know,” said nursing home employee Karen Tirado while holding back tears. “I was four years away from retirement after 32 years. I didn't do anything to deserve this.”
Tirado claims that no one from the county or the nursing home consulted her or her co-workers about the change.
“I don't think we've been listened to all along,” she said. “No one has ever talked to us or asked us what are you willing to do to keep your job? Never! No one has ever asked us. There are a lot of things we would do to keep our jobs.”
Wayne County Administrator James Marquette explains that it was a difficult decision for the supervisors to make, but at the end it came down to saving tax payer money.
“While it's not an easy thing to recommend or easy decision for anyone, I think that we have a responsibility to the people who pay taxes too,” Marquette said. “It's a dual edge situation.”
Marquette says that it costs $22.2 million dollars to run the nursing home. A majority of those funds come from the nursing home’s revenue and the rest comes from state and local taxpayer money.
According to Marquette, in 2013, Wayne County taxpayers are expected to pay $1.5 million to help run the nursing home. However, by 2016, the amount is expected to rise to $4.3 million as the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are decreasing and the cost of healthcare is increasing.
Marquette says this is the biggest single cut to the nursing home in recent years. However, he says there have been other cost-saving measures along the way. For example, he says overtime hours have been cut.
Rodney Bliss, a maintenance worker at the nursing home, believes there could have been other cuts made to save peoples' jobs.
“There are better ways to save county tax payers dollars than county employee jobs,” he said.
Marquette says that the laid off employees will be able to apply with Sodexo, however the wages are likely to be lower than what the employees get paid now. There is no word on whether the company will offer benefits.
“When you start privatizing and start lowering the cost of living and the amount of money that employees make, that's definitely going to affect the whole county,” Bliss said.
Bliss doesn’t know if he’ll apply with Sodexo. The company will take over on July 1.