I had an interesting visit last week from Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello.
Out of the blue I received a phone call from someone who I believe was his administrative assistant or someone else who works for him. The word was that Ryan – or rather Commissioner Costello – wanted to discuss my blog post in which I took the position that the operation of the Pocopson Home should not be changed, that is, take it out of the hands of the county and into private hands.
Now Commissioner Costello was cordial enough but I couldn’t help thinking that he was visiting to give me the hard sell on why the county needs to get out of the business of operating a home for the elderly. I have been at this newspaper since 2005 and this visit from him was a first.
I listened to the reasons he gave for wanting to present his side of the story: declining funding from governments higher than county level, i.e., state, federal, as well as declining funding from things like Medicare and Medicaid. Hey, I am well aware of those funding cuts. And I also understand unfunded mandates which I got the feeling Commissioner Costello wanted to call the public’s push for Chester County to keep funding Pocopson.
We went back and forth on the issues of government run versus private operations of things like trash hauling, supplying county government with things like paper towels and soap. But we’re not talking desks, chairs, paper towels or soap here. We are talking about people, elderly people who in lots of cases are not able to live anywhere else.
For a lot of elderly people, this is their only lifeline. And I told him that I based my blog opinion on the fact that I had personal experience in homes for the elderly with my own mom. Finding a facility is probably one of the most difficult things I have had to do as a caregiver. It is draining on more than a few levels.
And I in my own search visited government operated and private facilities. And my own conclusion was that those facilities operated by a government – even if only in the minds of the residents and their families – gave people more comfort than a private operation. The theory is that residents and their families at least feel like there is a direct line for concerns and/or complaints.
The example I gave the commissioner was that if you deal out a contract for trash hauling to a private vendor and you’re unhappy with the results, you simply change it up the next year or when the contract is expired. What do you do if your relative resides in a facility operated privately and there are issues? Well, I can tell you from personal experience that you are in for a long, rough, bumpy road.
And as for inspections? We all know there are rarely – if ever – surprise inspections so those inspections are really quite bogus.
My opinion – and only my opinion – is that Commissioner Costello feels that operating Pocopson is somewhat of a nuisance, a burden on the overall taxpayer in the county. That’s the impression he left me with.
My gut tells me that he’d push to get out its operation. After all, dealing with a home for the elderly comes with a lot of baggage. There are lots of personnel issues, overhead, complaints, and on and on.
Now he assured me that no decisions have been made and that the county is looking at all options moving forward. There are no changes happening tomorrow. But I also got a message loud and clear that just because nearly 300 people showed up to voice their concerns doesn’t mean the county isn’t going to make a change either.
Right now that answer doesn’t exist. However if I was a betting man – and I am – my bet would be that the county will get out of the business of running the Pocopson Home. And in my opinion as I stated in the previous blog post, that will prove to be a bad choice.
While government doesn’t belong in a lot of things, government also shouldn’t abandon its citizens, many of which spent years working and paying taxes to the government.
Chester County needs to continue to stand by their elderly residents, at least until a proven, slam-dunk option is presented. To me, that hasn’t happened yet.
And I’m sure I will be getting another telephone call from the commissioner or his assistant. And like I told him last week, he’s welcome to drop by any time. However, I know where I stand. I’ve looked into the eyes of lots of elderly residents and there were times I felt pretty bad with the looks that came back.
Is that what we really want here? I don’t think so.
— Andy Hachadorian