Lawmakers in charge of overseeing construction plans for a new Albany County Nursing Home delayed action this week on approving bids for upgrading the facility’s sprinkler system saying it could be a “waste” of taxpayer money if a new nursing home is built.
This is ridiculous," said Frank Commisso, a member of the Legislature's Special Nursing Home Facilities Committee, which met Monday (May 21) to consider the sprinkler system upgrades. "This is taxpayers' dollars being spent on something that maybe a year from now has to be ripped out."
While lawmakers have been waiting for approval from the New York State Health Department to build a new 200-bed facility, a deadline has been looming from the federal government to upgrade the sprinkler system at the aging facility or face loss of federal dollars.
The ultimatum comes from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees nursing homes and which is requiring the facilities nationwide to have full sprinkler systems by August 13, 2013 or face the loss of the Medicare and Medicaid payments they rely on to operate.
With the federal deadline looming and the project expected to take up to 36 weeks to complete, the county put the sprinkler project out the bid. The low bid, submitted by Condor Fire Sprinkler of Rotterdam, came in at $684,000 – about half of what the county had budgeted for the work.
The county had hoped to avoid doing the sprinkler work altogether and have a new nursing home built or at least in the construction stages by now, but the state continues to delay action on a Certificate of Need required to get the project underway. The application was submitted in 2010.
In the latest delay, last month, the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council, for a second time, tabled the new nursing home plan, asking the county to provide more details on finances for the building.
Deputy County Executive Michael Perrin told lawmakers Monday that the county has yet to receive in writing exactly what answers the panel's members want.
"So we don't know where we're at?” asked special committee Chairman Gary Domalewicz, who, in spite of the unfortunate situation, urged his fellow committee members to move ahead on approving the sprinkler bids. “It’s something we still gotta do,” he said.
But Commisso resisted, asking to see all correspondence with the federal government on the issue, laying the blame with the state for delaying construction of the new home and vowing to reach out to U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko to help intercede.
"It's inaction by the Department of Health that's causing the situation that the Albany County is in," Commisso, a strong supporter of building the new home, said. "If they're going put us out of the (nursing home) business, fine, let them tell us."
The special facilities committee postponed action on approving the sprinkler bids, saying it would revisit the issue at another meeting in two weeks.