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Genesee County lawmakers OK sale of nursing home to downstate firm

BATAVIA – As she thanked lawmakers for placing their “trust and confidence in us,” Lisa Sofia was quick to address the lone naysayer to the approval of the sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home to Premier Healthcare Management LLC for $15.2 million.

“Never, ever have we asked residents to leave our facility because of a lack of funds,” said Sofia, chief operating officer of the company based in Great Neck, Nassau County. “We are dedicated to the people of this community and to our employees.”

Sofia made her remarks in response to the “no” vote cast by Legislator Edward DeJaneiro Jr.

He expressed fears that “the result of the sale might mean that some residents would be refused admission because of profit and loss considerations.”

DeJaneiro has been against the sale of the 160-bed nursing facility and 80-bed adult home since the Legislature stepped up efforts to sell it last year. Operating losses over the last four years reportedly have exceeded $13 million.

The 7-1 vote Wednesday night paves the way for Premier “to put a face with the name,” said Sofia, who flew into the city with Premier majority owner Jonathan Bleier.

Bleier said Premier will file “change of ownership” papers with the state Health Department over the next six months but will waste no time meeting with employees, families and residents to “make this a shining facility.”

Premier has built a reputation of acquiring financially struggling skilled nursing facilities and turning them into profitable ventures.

Bleier said the company owns nine nursing homes and/or rehabilitation centers, including two in New York – Westchester Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Mount Vernon and Pine Haven Nursing Facility in Philmont. The sale of the Pine Haven facility closed earlier this summer.

Legislature Chairman Raymond F. Cianfrini said he and his colleagues were impressed by the level of care they saw when they toured Premier facilities at the outset of the vetting process.

“The quality of care was one of our primary concerns,” he said. “I believe we have the right people in place to go to the next level.”

Legislator Robert J. Bausch agreed, adding that “it isn’t something we have taken lightly.”

Cianfrini acknowledged the work of County Attorney Charles N. Zambito, who prepared three contracts – one for the sale of the building and all assets and two that cover the transfer of the operations of the skilled nursing facility and adult home.

Zambito had previously said Premier plans to apply to the state to convert the 80-bed domiciliary into an Assisted Living Program facility.

Cianfrini also thanked former Legislature Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock, who was in attendance.

“It was under Mary Pat’s leadership that the topic was (initially) discussed,” he said. “She got the ball rolling. It has been a long journey.”

In other action, the Legislature:

• Accepted $257,000 in grants from the state Office of Children and Family Services for the AmeriCorps and Youth Opportunity programs in Genesee County for the period of Oct. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2016.

• Approved a budget of $256,918 for the county’s STOP-DWI program for 2016, with the stipulation that if it authorizes the creation of a dedicated DWI road patrol deputy, funds for the deputy’s fringe benefits ($40,000) would come from the general fund and not from the STOP-DWI account.

• Voted to use $11,475 from bed tax reserves to fund a feasibility study and concept development for the possible relocation of the county Chamber of Commerce from Main Street to a parcel on Park Road in the Town of Batavia.