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Let’s all help to keep Kinney Home open

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It’s been 43 years since Harold and Mary Kinney dedicated the nursing home that bears their names and was their shining jewel.

They were illustrious citizens who personified achievement, kindness and philanthropy and who set out to build a better community. Without the substantial contributions of their time and resources, Gouverneur’s hospital and nursing home may not have been possible.

Did either of them envision a day their nursing home would close?

Imagine their consternation to learn that the new Gouverneur hospital has just such a plan and broke a promise to let families appeal the closing. Twenty-seven residents will be transferred within 90 days if the commissioner of health approves the plan.

Some have already left. New applicants are being turned away.

The main reason? Medicare, the worst payer of nursing home benefits, covers the majority of residents. Making matters worse, the Affordable Care Act drastically increases the Medicaid program and takes funds from Medicare Advantage, which performs better.

So, hazard a guess: the commissioner of health will approve the plan because experts report small nursing homes can’t be economically maintained.

But the fact is private insurance plans have provided sufficient benefits for these costs, and government plans like Medicaid have not. Private plans may disappear under the new law.

Won’t there be a greater need for these services as the population ages? After our recent experience with the hospital’s renovation, closure, reorganization and reopening, what other long-range plans for the hospital should we know about?

We must find ways to keep senior homes and medical facilities local and viable. The more scarce something of value is, the more it will cost.

If availability of medical services is made scarce, costs of those services will increase. Before accepting the plan to close the Kinney Home, consider our own needs.

Many of us with natural tendencies toward dependency will one day wake up in such a facility. Mary Kinney herself lived her golden years at Kinney Home.

The residents, families, staff and volunteers at the Kinney Home are being abandoned by the health care system. I ask those who acknowledge its value to join the campaign to keep it open.

Contact our local congressman, state and local representatives, or the commissioner of health to let them know. The current commissioner is Dr. Nirav R. Shah; the phone number for nursing home complaints is 888-201-4563.

James A. Skeldon

Watertown

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