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Nurse raises concerns about Cl.Co. Nursing Home sale

Press-Republican - 8/30/2022

Aug. 30—PLATTSBURGH — The incentive packages that were offered to the Clinton County Nursing home staff July 14, to compel them to stay through the transitional process as the facility is sold, have since raised questions and concerns from some employees.

Beth Winter, a nurse at the Clinton County Nursing Home, voiced these concerns to the legislature at the county regular meeting Aug. 17.

'THIS IS OUR LIVELIHOOD'

"Our understanding, at that time, was that the nursing home would be sold by Dec. 31," Winter said.

"There's now a concern amongst the staff, that the nursing home will not be sold by the close of 2022, and we would like to know, will the stay pay be paid then, as we believed it would be, or will it be renegotiated?

"I'm telling you now that the problem with not paying it then and dangling that carrot months and months out, is you will not have people staying. We have skin in the game, this is our livelihood...we have families to support and we just cannot stay in the game for peanuts."

WAITING TO SEE

Legislature Chair Mark Henry (R-Area 3, Chazy) said Winter's concerns about the current incentive packages were premature, because they don't have a definitive date for when the nursing home will be sold yet.

"That discussion will include the union...we would be in discussion with their (the staff's) bargaining representatives as far as any change to stay pay. So it's not a topic of conversation yet," Henry told the Press-Republican.

"We heard what she had to say, (and) we have offered a generous package...we don't have a date certain on when it will be sold, so we are kind of waiting to see when that might be, that will help with our decision."

STAY PAY

Henry said to pay out the already agreed upon stay pay on Dec. 31, and then offer an additional round of stay pay after that, doesn't seem like a good option for the county to consider.

"Stay pay, the whole idea is to incentivize you to stay there, so I think she said, if I understood her correctly, to 'pay us our stay pay at the end of this year, and then we'll have a second round,'" he said.

"Well I don't know that that would be the best way to go, because what would prevent someone, if I paid you, now you leave?

"Of course you can leave, you don't have to ever stay, but the whole idea is to incentivize everyone to stay, because we want the folks to stay as long as they can for a smooth transition, and it's important that we have these folks here for the patients. So, we are doing, I think, everything we can to encourage current employees to remain."

FOUR PACKAGES

According to the Memorandum of Agreement between Clinton County and the Civil Service Employee's Association (CSEA), there were four incentive packages offered — which package an employee will receive if they stay, is based on varying factors like their years of service and whether they are a part-time or full-time employee.

The current stay pay for staff who have worked at the nursing home for three months to 10 years — the package Winter is set to receive at the designated layoff date — is $5,000.

Winter said that, according to her own calculations, if the nursing home isn't sold by April of 2023, her stay pay will dramatically decrease from $29.24 a day to $17.18 a day before taxes.

"So basically, I would be working for just about nothing for staying with the county," she said.

WILL REVISIT

County Deputy Administrator Kim Kinblom couldn't definitively say if those numbers were accurate, but said as they get closer to that Dec. 31 deadline, and if the nursing home still isn't sold, they will revisit those stay pay conversations.

"The agreement is basically saying if people stay until the date of transition of a new owner, they will receive stay pay. But if that date doesn't happen until after Dec. 31, we're going to have to negotiate with the union some new terms for the agreement. So I can't really speak on who will get what on what date, we'll have to negotiate it with the union," Kinblom told the Press-Republican.

"We just don't know at this point."

COUNTY PAY GRADES

Knowing that the county nursing home has been struggling to hire staff for a while now, Winter also mentioned to the legislature that she is frustrated to hear county employees' pay may increase two grades come January.

"It is well deserved for every county employee. The frustration that we have comes from many years of telling people 'we cannot hire nurse's aides, we cannot hire LPNS, we cannot hire RNs,'" she said.

"At the current wage, it is very low, and always, we've heard there is no money for that, and it's interesting that after we are being sold, there is money for people to go up two pay grades."

PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES

The pay grade increase for CSEA employees, while likely to happen, still has to be officially approved by the legislature in the upcoming 2023 budget packet, Kinblom said.

But, traditionally, the county has also worked to give the nursing home staff the best pay they could, she said.

"I can tell you that the county, in previous years, reallocated the nurse's titles, specifically, at the nursing home multiple times," she said.

"They have gotten reallocation multiple times to try to get them their pay closer to private companies."

Kinblom added that "the County and CSEA also just adopted a 'Job Sharing' program with NH (nursing home) employees and the County Department to ensure that we provide other county job opportunities to those NH employees that are looking to stay with the county."

NYS BONUSES

Another area of concern raised by Winter at the meeting was the healthcare bonus through New York state.

She said she knew the staff at the nursing home was eligible for the bonus but with the deadline quickly approaching to apply, no employees had heard from the county that it was being worked on.

"New York state has set it up so that the county has to submit a list of eligible employees for that and then we have to sign an attestation saying that that data is accurate before we get our bonus pay from New York state for working through COVID. The deadline is Sept. 2," Winter said.

"I have been made aware that personnel is doing some things behind the scenes, but communicating that to the staff would go a long way toward easing their anxiety about this."

BEING WORKED ON

Kinblom assured that county employees would indeed be getting their bonuses.

"That is all being worked on," Kinblom said.

"It was not just the county nursing home, there are other nurses and (staff) that are eligible for this bonus, so it was a county-wide initiative that we had to do, but I can assure that everything will be uploaded by Sept. 2, by the due date."

'VERY UNSETTLING'

As the process of selling the nursing home continues moving forward, Winter also asked that the county be more forthcoming in their communication with the staff.

"To be told our positions are abolished, and we are questioning whether the stay pay is really going to come or not, and if it does when? It's just very unsettling to the staff that has chosen to stay there," she said.

"And I think that if it's not addressed in an open, transparent, forthcoming communication form, more and more staff will be leaving. They have to work, they have to have health insurance, they have to provide. So I would encourage you to make that a priority for them, so that this transition will be less painful for many of us than it already is."

Email: cnewton@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: CarlySNewton

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