To the Editor-
A proposal has been floated regarding the future of the Portage Country Health Care Center. If this isn’t on your radar, it’s time for you sit up and take notice because the long term impact could be epic and not in a good way.
Admittedly, I only recently became aware of what has evidently been in the works for some time when County Executive Patty Drier described the high level details 1010 AM’s Portage County Live.
If the proposal to engage a non-profit organization to provide skilled nursing services goes through, it will effectively put an end to the existence of the PCHCC as we know it. At first blush, the sales pitch for this arrangement sounds good but as it’s often said, the devil is in the details.
After attending the PCHCC committee meetings on August 3 and August 17, as I understand it, the Sisters of St. Joseph would provide land next to the existing convent on Maria Drive whereupon Presbyterian Homes & Services and Milwaukee Catholic Homes would construct and operate a new facility. Portage County taxpayers would contribute a one-time $10 million payment toward this effort.
During the course of both committee meetings which were well-attended by a diverse cross-section of the public, many good, thought-provoking questions were asked and legitimate concerns were expressed. Unfortunately, my attitude quickly soured as I listened to the discussion and at this point, I cannot support this initiative.
I have no objection to the involvement of the SSJ-TOSF. What concerns me is once the transition to the non-profit takes place, Portage County will no longer have any oversight or control of the operation of this facility. There would be a reduction in available beds from 100 to possibly as few as 60. The current PCHCC employees will have to reapply for their jobs with no guarantee of future employment, wages or benefits. How the $10 million would be spent has not been explained.
From my perspective, the majority of the members of the public in attendance at both meetings were decidedly against the proposal as it stands today. It seemed to me most were in favor of either renovating the existing home or constructing a new health care facility which would remain under county operation and control. There were numerous calls to put the matter to a vote and after an effort to educate the taxpayers, providing all the pros and cons, I agree the matter should go to binding referendum.
Despite the financial challenges, to cut and run at this stage of the game to get out from under what the PCHCC chair described as a “burden” is unthinkable. What scares me is it seems as though closed door negotiations are already underway between county officials and the non-profit to do exactly that.
The next committee meeting is scheduled for September 21. Consider attending to voice your opinion before we reach the point of no return.