I read Daily Local reporter Michael Rellahan’s account of Monday night’s meeting at Downingtown East High concerning the Pocopson Home. Hundreds turned out again in the second public meeting concerning the future of the facility.
Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello told the large audience that the purpose of the meetings was to educate and not to scare anyone. Apparently many of the Pocopson residents are terrified that the place they call home will be or may be turned over to a private operation.
However the commissioner (I assume acting as the spokesman for all commissioners) made some pretty hefty promises and made some bold statements I’m not sure he’s really ready to back up. And if he is prepared to do just that and the county can save money and maintain operational success then by all means go for it.
But a word or two of caution here. Again, I don’t see how the promises can be made.
1) “I am not interested in being a part of anything that would involve any of you moving out of your home,” said Costello of the home.
2) Residents who live there now would not be forced to leave the facility many think of as “home” regardless of what decisions are made as to its ownership.
3) Costello and his fellow commissioners tried to assure the employees at Pocopson that they were grateful for the job they have done caring for the residents there and were not setting out to deprive them of pay or benefits by selling the facility to a private owner.
4) The commissioners, after hearing from their consultant about costs associated with Pocopson and possible revenue enhancement, also told those attending the meeting that no bids had been solicited for the facility and no timetable was set for a decision on its long-range future. It may come months from now or not at all.
I suppose my cynical nature makes me wonder how the promise can be made that if a private enterprise takes over what would prevent them from moving residents out? What agreements would be in place to stop that?
As to the employees, again, how can such guarantees be made as to pay, benefits, continued employment?
And if the facility is such a drain, would it not be prudent TO set a timetable for a decision?
According to Rellahan’s story, Pocopson faces questions about its future because revenues from the Medicare and Medicaid patients it serves are dropping while capital costs are looming. The county, which once saw the home providing revenue, now sees operating losses at the facility, according to a study completed by a King of Prussia-based health care consultant – Premier.
The story said that while less boisterous than the first in the series of public meetings on the home’s future that the commissioners have promised held two weeks ago, the crowd Monday for the most part was still solidly behind the notion that Pocopson should remain in public hands and not those of a private operator.
“I think that privatization, although no one wants to see their taxes increased, could be disastrous for the residents and the staff,” said Ann Bird of West Pikeland.
“I think that Pocopson should remain a county-owned facility, just as we control our roads and our bridges and our liquor stores,” said Frank Moon of Pennsbury. “We need to be able to find taxpayer dollars to support these 300 people.”
I would love to speak further to Helen Webber of East Goshen who said she hoped the commissioners would decide to sell the facility and stop providing long-term care. “I don’t know why the county should be in this business,” adding that she saw no reason why taxpayers should be asked to fund Pocopson.
I guess I would ask her if she feels confident that when she reaches her “golden years” and possible needs somewhere to go to live out her remaining years she has a place to go. If she does, then she’s very lucky.
Ms. Webber – not everyone is that lucky.
Chairman Terence Farrell at one point asked Moon, who spoke critically about property taxes he paid to the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, whether he would be willing to support a hypothetical 3 percent or 4 percent tax increase to keep Pocopson in county hands.
“Yes, I would,” Moon said, to applause.
Premier officials also reviewed new programs that could be initiated at Pocopson — such as dialysis treatment or short-term rehabilitation care — that would provide new revenue for the facility. However, some of those carried with them capital costs that would be added to the $6 million in building costs the home is estimated to need over the next five years.
The commissioners said that they were still studying the details of Premier’s evaluation, and that the next public meeting would focus on its assessment of three possible alternatives to keeping the facility run as it is now — transforming Pocopson to a nonprofit corporation overseen by the commissioners, leasing it to a private operator or selling it outright.
Deep down in my gut, I still get the sense that the Helen Webbers of the world – along with some members of the county government – see Pocopson as a burden we don’t need, a unnecessary evil, something we can do without.
That is until they themselves end up with nowhere to go and no family to lean on.
Folks, be careful for what you wish for…
— Andy Hachadorian