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Analysis shows variation in nursing home meal costs

LITTLE VALLEY -- Meals served to each patient of Cattaraugus County's Olean Pines Nursing Home cost $2.09 less than the $7.68 per meal spent on each resident of the Machias Pines facility in 2005.

The updated figures -- provided to Local 805, Civil Service Employees Association, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request -- were revealed during a meeting Wednesday of the Cattaraugus County Legislature.

Nursing Homes Controller Jeff VanDeCar provided copies of the documents to legislators as part of his presentation during a Senior Services Committee session Wednesday night. He said he conducted a 2005 year-end analysis to fill the request, and it has not been audited. The documents were not made public.

In a search for ways to cut nursing homes costs, the Legislature recently sent out a dozen food-service vendor bid packets and conducted a tour of the homes for representatives of Morrison, Sodexho, Unidine and Nutrition Management.

CSEA workers, fearing the loss of dozens of union jobs and less personalized meal services for patients, began a series of informational workshops and launched a petition drive and letter-writing campaign last week. County officials and legislators say they have begun receiving mail and phone calls from workers and concerned citizens.

County Administrator John R. "Jack" Searles said some callers have incorrect information and mistakenly believe that more than dietary workers could be affected by a privatization move.

"The legislators owe it to the county residents to explore the options," said Nursing Homes Director John A. Ognibene after the meeting.

Vendors have been asked to return bids by Feb. 23 on food and dietary services for Olean Pines, Machias Pines, Meals on Wheels and the Department of Aging Meals on Wheels service in Allegany. The Olean Pines food service is now contracted to Morrison.

VanDeCar said his preliminary analysis of wages, fringe benefits and unemployment costs of the 2005 food and beverage service at the 115-bed Machias Pines shows $886,617 spent for 115,389 meals. At the 120-bed Olean facility, $715,515 was spent on 127,953 meals.

County officials say that it takes more employees to serve the residents in five communal "pod" kitchens in the newer Machias facility. In the Olean facility all residents are served together in a dining hall by non-union workers employed by Morrison.

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