When legislators first proposed to sell the County Home, I thought, here we go again. For the umpteenth time our politicians are using the County Home to grab some headlines during an election year. I told everyone who would listen that this would blow over just as it has many times before. I expressed confidence that Chautauqua County residents would not tolerate the sale of our home.
Last week's vote to reject the offer proposed was the right thing to do. Those who voted against the proposal should be applauded. We should not sell the County Home if there is even the slightest possibility that the quality of care should suffer. We owe it to the seniors, our mothers, our fathers, aunts and uncles, former teachers, clergy, working men and women who reside there. We owe them the best possible care we can provide for them.
Is it appropriate to put a dollar value on the level of care we are willing to provide? I don't think so. A lot has been made regarding how much the County Home is "losing" each day. I do not understand why this rationale is applied only to the County Home. Has anyone mentioned how much the county highway department "loses" each day keeping our roads clear? How much is our county government costing us each day? Why do we demand that we profit from the care of our elderly? Can we name the other county departments that are expected to turn a profit? Is the sheriff's department making money? How much is the county jail "losing" each day? Why does your 90-year-old mother have to turn a profit but not the guy who burgled your house or sold drugs to your children?
We have much to be proud of in our County Home. A beautiful facility, well-appointed and staffed by caring professionals. It is a slap in the face to caregivers everywhere to begrudge them a living wage and a decent retirement.
Instead of looking for ways to cut their wages and break the promises we have made them, we should be encouraging all health care institutions to pay their workers what they deserve. For too long we have underpaid health care workers for doing the most important job there is, caring for their fellow human beings.
I understand that we have attached 14 conditions to the sales agreement. This should not provide comfort or peace of mind to those in favor of selling the home. There is no guarantee that quality care will be maintained at the County Home. I would look closely at each item deciding who will monitor the task or outcome and how. As all health care professionals know, rules and regulations are only good if they can be observed and enforced. Who will be doing this on behalf of the residents of Chautauqua County? What happens if some or all of the 14 conditions are not met? Has a penalty or penalties been outlined or do we just get to take the County Home back and deal with the issues that may have resulted by poor care?
The cost of quality care is expensive. The comfort and care of our elderly citizens is priceless.
Dennis R. Bechmann is a Jamestown resident.