This is an open letter to the County Legislature and county executive:
My mother has been a resident of the Chautauqua County Home for over three years. On a recent weekend while visiting both of my parents, I read with keen interest the articles in the Sunday OBSERVER related to the sale of the Chautauqua County Home. The decision whether to turn over the County Home to a private enterprise has to be a difficult one. Financial, social, emotional and personal issues must be weighing heavily on this decision, and I by no means can claim to be an expert on all the issues you have to examine in making your decision.
I am an expert on people and in particular two people. My parents are lifelong residents of Chautauqua County. Their generation survived the Great Depression and was dubbed "The Greatest Generation," by newscaster and author Tom Brokaw. Great, because of their total respect and love of their country; a generation willing to sacrifice to be sure their country remained free allowing you, as elected officials of Chautauqua County to be able to make the difficult decisions that have to be made in a free society.
My father is a World War II veteran and my mother volunteered during the war in any way she could to support the war efforts and the troops. A steel worker and a bookkeeper, my parents lived modestly and worked hard to make ends meet but always paid their taxes and did not expect much in return. They did expect, however, that should the day come that they could not take care of themselves; their great country would surely take care of them.
My father agonized over the decision to place his wife of 60 years into the County Home. He did not have much of a choice as the County Home is the only institution in the entire northern part of Chautauqua County equipped to handle patients like my mother. Upon entering the County Home my mother was a full-pay patient. My father paid the bill each month watching their savings dwindle until reaching the threshold at which his wife's nursing home expenses would be paid by Medicaid.
Later that year, my father broke his hip and also entered the County Home for his rehabilitation. His insurance only covered 60 days of rehabilitation and at age 90 he needed more time to fully recover. He paid out of his pocket to remain and receive the rehabilitation he needed, further diminishing his hard-earned savings.
When able, my father dutifully visits my mother at the County Home. He leaves each visit assured her care is exceptional. He is fully aware of the current debate surrounding the privatization of the County Home and is worried about her future. He can do the math. If the County Home currently needs a subsidy to make ends meet, how will a private company taking on a $16 million debt possibly operate with a profit? The answer is simple, they will need to cut patients, cut services, cut staff or most likely cut all three. I spared him the details of the consequences in other counties that have already experienced privatization.
I do not expect that this letter will impact any member of the legislature's vote on this subject. I do have one request. Each member of the legislature planning to vote for this sale should visit my father and the families of every other resident of the County Home, shake their hands and assure them that there will be no decline in services to their loved ones. If you can't do that, you should not vote for the sale.
The County Legislature has a choice, these families have no choice.
Donald R. Przytula, Ed. D, is a Fredonia High School and Fredonia State University graduate and currently resides in Fairfield, Conn.