As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I believe the profit motive in for-profit nursing homes sometimes undermines those homes’ commitment to good care. So I was disappointed to see an April 3 article from the Erie Times-News about an apparent trend toward Pennsylvania counties selling their nursing homes to private companies. According to the article, at least fiver Pennsylvania counties — most in greater Philadelphia — have sold homes or are exploring the idea. A committee connected to Erie County’s County Council has recommended the sale of its county-run facilities as well. However, the idea has met with fierce opposition in Northampton County, where advocates for the Gracedale nursing home in Nazareth are concerned that proposed privatization could harm the elderly and sick residents.
Gracedale, which has 600 employees and 725 beds, is one of the biggest county-run nursing homes in Pennsylvania. County government officials there are soliciting bids from private companies, in part because the 1970s-era building needs $10 million in repairs and improvements. However, county residents are currently petitioning to put the sale to a vote. Nursing home sales in other counties have also generated controversy over issues like number of indigent patients the homes will serve and whether union contracts with the counties will still be honored. Officials in Cambria County said the Laurel Crest home there lost $9.2 million in two years, and the sale removed a financial liability from their budget. Erie County’s two Pleasant View Manor homes aren’t losing money, their administrator said, but a county committee recommended selling it for financial and competitive reasons.
I oppose this because, as a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, I believe that county governments are better caretakers for the sick and vulnerable than for-profit nursing home companies. Of course, not all companies seeking to make a profit are willing to do it at the expense of patients, but serving the financial bottom line has effects that voters may not realize. For example, homes can save money by cutting staff members, especially skilled staff members. However, when the ratio of staff to patients is too low, and especially when staff members don’t have the right training, they may be too busy to give patients the attention they need to handle difficult behavior, dehydration and bedsore prevention. As a result, important patient care can be neglected, eventually causing health problems or even Pennsylvania nursing home abuse. Understaffed, underskilled homes may also use psychiatric drugs instead of behavioral interventions — a practice that can lead to unnecessary illness or injury. As a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I believe protecting the vulnerable is part of government’s job — not a business to be sold when the budget is tight.
The law firm of Rosenbaum & Associates represents families whose loved ones have suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation in Pennsylvania nursing homes. If your family has been victimized and you’d like to talk to an experienced attorney about holding the home responsible, call us today for a free consultation at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us an email.