Though a proposed bill to increase the number of skilled nursing beds at Longview, the assisted living facility located on Route 96B, was vetoed last Wednesday, administration at the facility said they are meeting with officials from the New York State Department of Health immediately to come up with legislation that would be passed by the state.
The clinic held its annual open house last Friday, where student volunteers worked with clients. The Longview Head Start program also made a visit.
The bill, vetoed by New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer, would allow Longview to expand the facility and add 32 skilled nursing beds. The beds would be staffed by health care professionals but would also provide Ithaca College students in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance the opportunity to gain experience in the field.
According to the governor’s veto message, the “college-linked senior community” would serve as a demonstration of intergenerational health care.
The same bill was also vetoed by George Pataki, former governor of New York state, in 2005.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton wrote the bill and found it sponsorship in the Senate. She said they had hoped it would pass under a new administration.
“There were enough discussions that we felt it might be possible,” she said.
State procedures require health care facilities to complete a certificate of need application to assess whether or not the area requires additional facilities. Mark Macera, executive director of Longview, said that in 2005, when Ithacare-Longview started the legislation, there was a moratorium on the expansion or construction of nursing facilities in the area. Macera approached Lifton to draft a bill to bypass the moratorium at the suggestion of the state legislature — which is why the veto was especially disappointing, he said.
“We asked legislation to permit a demonstration of what could be done, and [Congress] agreed two years running,” Macera said. “It was sent to governors, both Republican and Democratic, only to have it vetoed … at the urging of the New York State Health Department.”
Steve Siconolfi, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, said the expansion would continue to develop the existing relationship between the college and Longview. He said there would be opportunities for classes, independent studies and internships across disciplines.
“We are hoping to be able to build on our current relationship between their staff and our faculty,” Siconolfi said. “From that it will increase the opportunity for students.”
Macera said even if the bill had passed, Longview would still have to go through the normal certificate of need process.
“We are not asking special permission,” he said. “We are of a single mind here at Ithacare-Longview that there is a need for skilled nursing beds and retirement communities.”
In 2006, the state passed the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also known as the Berger Commission. After assessing New York state’s health care facilities, the Commission called for nine to close and 48 to be reconfigured.
Macera said Lakeside Nursing Home, in Ithaca, is earmarked for closing within the next two years. But he said the Berger Commission can only recommend a facility to close or reconfigure. He said Lakeside administration and the state health department are still discussing alternatives.
“That’s the $100,000 question,” he said. “The projected closing may still be up in the air.”
Lifton said Lakeside will most likely remain open, but the number of skilled nursing beds will be cut in half. She said with less beds in the area, the hope is that Longview can increase the number of beds through a normal certificate of need process, even under the moratorium.
She said the difference between Lakeside and at Longview is that Longview can provide different levels of care throughout the aging process.
“[The Berger Commission suggests] you take a facility like Lakeside, cut some nursing beds and add on assisted living and adult day care,” Lifton said. “When you add [those beds] to Longview, you are creating a continuum of care because they already have these state-assisted programs.”
Macera said he is “guardedly optimistic” that the bill will be passed through this process.
“There is a list of individuals at Longview who wanted to remain here and are being forced to leave us,” he said. “But the state health department … in its rules and regulations, I think, were deaf to Ithacare-Longview’s needs and the resident’s requests.”