Submitted by Brian Raabe, Old Greenwich
The Town of Greenwich is kicking seniors to the curb.
That is the bottom line regarding plans for Nathaniel Witherell.
The Town’s Finance Committee has claimed, in part, that due to poor service rankings Witherell should be privatized. The Town’s lead candidate to take on that privatization – Allaire Health – runs 11 facilities in NJ and PA.
Two of Allaire’s facilities are 1-star ranked (well below average) and five are 2-star ranked (below average). Why claim service at Nathaniel Witherell is the issue and then put forward a firm to take it over whose ratings are so poor? The Finance committee suggested service levels that would be mandated by contract. Enforced how? Once a change is made and elder care suffers its irrelevant.
In a recent information session the Town’s Finance Committee also suggested union labor is an issue. The cost of staffing is too high. But Greenwich has a unionized police and fire service. Why are we able to manage those relationships well and not Nathaniel Witherell?
The Finance Committee has claimed that Nathaniel Witherell is mismanaged, that delinquent or unbilled accounts receivable has ballooned to $12MM dollars. How on earth was that allowed to happen?! Where was the Town’s oversight? $12MM was not properly billed and the Finance Committee is now citing that as an example of mismanagement. Whose mismanagement? Nathaniel Witherell’s or the Town’s?
Finally, the Town seems to be “gaslighting” the public when it comes to this process. A recent Finance Committee information session at town hall consisted of a slide deck of 30 pages or so. Two pages spoke to “the status quo,” 28 pages spoke to why we need to privatize. That’s not an information session – that’s theatre before a preordained conclusion.
Further, when asked about Allaire as the lead candidate for privatization, a firm with 7 facilities ranked below or well below average out of 11, the meeting hosts said they “did not know” if Allaire was the lead.
See page 28 of the First Selectman’s 2023-2024 Budget Presentation from this week citing Allaire. Allaire is cited over and over in public documents as the lead.
To “not know” is disingenuous. To not want to talk about it, given Allaire’s rankings, is more understandable.
In short, the Town cannot continue to gaslight the public with a process that suggests community involvement when debate is zero. The Finance Committee is on transmit only with figures that support their position. They claim to not know who the lead candidate for privatization is when the firm is cited by name in the First Selectman’s own budget proposal. They claim to not be anti-union when pages and pages of their presentation speak to staffing costs and unions.
That Nathaniel Witherell is challenged is as much the responsibility of the Finance Committee and Town oversight as anything else. The Finance Committee needs to own that and fix it, not simply kick seniors to the curb by selling out to a sub-standard provider because is the most expeditious path. Not to claim “costs are rising” while at the same time putting forth a $7MM/ 12% increase in Town health care costs this year (see page 26 of the First Selectman’s budget presentation) without batting an eye.
Finally, the Town needs to move away from viewing Nathaniel Witherell through the lens of a profit imperative when it is a service. Do we manage Police, Fire or Education by a profit and loss statement?
Stop the process to privatize that is running on rails and on the back of our senior citizens. Greenwich is a better Town than that. We all deserve Nathaniel Witherall, it is precisely what is meant by, “a community is to be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.” First Selectman Camillo was kind enough to discuss this with me as a constituent. I believe he is open to considering a variety of solutions. Alternatives worthy of a town like ours should be exhausted before privatization.