Jamaica nursing home fears cuts in Medicaid

By Ivan Pereira

Medicaid cuts in the state budget over the last few years have crippled nursing homes across the state and if Gov. David Paterson approves a mid-year 10 percent reduction for the service, thousands of elderly patients will suffer, according to the administrators of the Trump Pavilion nursing center in Jamaica.

The heads of the nursing home and rehabilitation center joined with health care advocacy group Continuing Care Coalition during the last week to push the governor to reconsider the budget cuts as the center’s beds continue to be filled with more and more patients.

“It magnifies even more when a nursing home closes, because it takes away a person’s home,” said Scott Amrhein, president of Continuing Care.

Medicaid pays for nearly 80 percent of nursing home costs in the state, according to Amrhein. Several nursing homes in New York have had to cut their staff because of seven Medicaid cuts over the last two years, the health advocate said.

“With the cuts looming we’re down to the bone,” Amrhein said.

A representative from the governor’s budget office said the state has had to make drastic changes to all government-run services to offset Albany’s $3 billion deficit.

“Although we know that these are difficult reductions, those entities that receive state money will have to make prudent adjustments to their operations,” said Matt Anderson, a spokesman for the governor’s budget office.

At the Trump Pavilion, administrators said the cuts would have severe repercussions on the way they treat their patients. Although the center recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation this year, some of the features of the nursing home were not completed.

A proposed garden that was located outside the 224-bed facility’s rehabilitation room could not be finished because of a lack of funding, according to Lisa Garcia, Trump Pavilion’s controller. The garden was meant to give patients a comforting view while they were healing from hip replacement surgeries or injuries.

“It was something we put on hold because of the previous budget cuts,” Garcia said of the garden.

Trump Pavilion, part of Jamaica hospital’s system, is at 96 percent capacity and has a staff of 241, according to Assistant Administrator Angela Czarnecki. For long-term care patients, Czarnecki said the nursing center treats each elder’s needs specifically by arranging his or her schedule for meals, recreation time and medical check-ups to their preferences.

“It’s their home and we’re their family and we’re trying to make it easy for them,” she said.

If the Medicaid cuts happen, the staff could be cut, which would compromise the patients’ schedule, according to Amrhein. A smaller staff could also have other effects on the diverse population, the health advocate said.

“If you cut an aide that knows Mandarin, you may not find someone who can fit that need,” Amrhein said.

Amrhein testified before the state Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee on the executive budget proposal at two hearings last week and Monday and said the way the governor could prevent further problems for nursing homes is to rethink the state’s medical policies.

“They should look at long-range care and make incentives for choosing long-term insurance,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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