When’s the last time 200 people showed up for a government meeting in Chester County? Even the sale of county buildings didn’t seem to generate a number that high.
Well on Wednesday night that was the case as a couple hundred people showed up to express their concern about the possible sale or otherwise changes at the Pocopson Home. Daily Local reporter Michael Rellahan noted that speaker after speaker, many of whose parents or other family members are current residents at the home, spoke of their love for the facility.
Apparently the concern is that once a facility like Pocopson would be turned over to a private operator the quality of care would decrease. The operation by the county makes it more accountable to the strict rules of the long-term facility.
But like other operations of the county, expenses are getting out of hand and there needs to be a solution. A health care consultant presented potential options for Pocopson. Premier president Joanne Jones said there was some possibility that Pocopson could increase its revenue by dedicating a portion of the facility to a short-term rehab unit, in which patients would come and get well and go home. That would come at the expense of long-term care, she indicated.
In addition, there are $6 million in capital costs at the aging facility that Pocopson Administrator Alan Larson said could not be put off indefinitely, such as upgrading heating and ventilation systems.
The options that Jones presented to the commissioners in the report for the future of Pocopson included setting it up as a nonprofit enterprise, still overseen by the county but operated by a semi-independent board of directors; leasing it to a third party; and selling it outright.
Each option had drawbacks. A nonprofit operation would mean that new employees would not be part of the county pension system, while leasing or selling the facility would mean its mission of care for needy residents would not necessarily carry on.
Jones did not offer a recommendation on what the best option would be, but noted there was an “undeniable need” for nursing care in the county that would be even greater in the future.
For anyone who has had to deal with placing an elderly loved one in a long-term care facility, it can be gut-wrenching. And I have seen both sides of the care issue. I have visited the government-operated facilities and the private ones. I would definitely agree that the privately-run facilities don’t cut it as well as those with oversight of the government. And while I am not one to push for the government to stick its nose into things, this is the exception.
My mother lived in a privately-run facility. Clothing, jewelry, shoes, you name it and it disappeared. The worst was the theft of her engagement ring. And there’s not much you can do.
So I can feel the pain of those concerned about any potential Pocopson change.
According to Mike Rellahan’s story, Commissioner Ryan Costello, speaking before Jones’ presentation, said the three commissioners all recognized the place Pocopson plays in the county’s history and its community.
“It is a special place and it is a valued place,” Costello said. “We as commissioners realize that. But we as commissioners have to do our best to make sure costs are as low as possible. We need to look at everything.”
Commissioners’ Vice Chairman Kathi Cozzone, in thanking the crowd for coming to the meeting, promised that it would be only the first time the commissioners would hold a meeting to get input on the options. “I recognize that this is an important service that we provide to the community,” she said.
Among those who spoke at the two-hour-long session were two of the residents at Pocopson, who objected to any notion that the system should be changed.
“I feel this is just about money,” said Betty Decker, who spoke from her wheelchair. “I love Pocopson. I don’t need to move out. We don’t need changes.”
“Pocopson is very valuable to everyone who is there,” echoed Nanette Story. “We don’t want any changes.” The commissioners said another meeting would be scheduled sometime in the coming month.
I urge anyone who is concerned to keep the pressure on the county to retain the control over Pocopson. I believe any privatization would be a mistake. Anyone who disagrees should just talk to those of us who have had to place our elderly into these facilities.
— Andy Hachadorian