Thursday, December 02, 1999

Don't cut local inspections of nursing homes, city told

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati health commissioner is opposing a proposal to cut nursing home and day care inspections as a way to help balance the city budget.

        As part of a $4.8 million budget reduction, City Manager John Shirey has recommended cutting the inspection services. He said the state is required to do them and the city is duplicating services.

        But Health Commissioner Malcolm Adcock said Wednesday that state inspections are not as stringent and “cannot oversee as closely” as local ones.

        “We feel that both are important,” Dr. Adcock said. “We feel, in the case of nursing homes, local inspections are better.”

        While Mr. Shirey said Wednesday the health department “is supportive” of the cuts which could save about $350,000 annually, the nine- member board of health supports continued city inspections.

        “We understand the position of the city manager in identifying cuts. ... But we have formally requested both programs in our budget,” Dr. Adcock said.

        Some Cincinnati City Council members said Wednesday they are not ready to support the cuts.

        “I have asked the health commissioner to forward information to me,” said Councilwoman Alicia Reece, who was sworn into office Wednesday and will chair the Health, Social and Children Services, Small Business Development, Employment and Training Committee.

        A primary concern is the difference between local and state inspections, Ms. Reece said.

        Dr. Adcock said local ordinances require higher staffing ratios than does the state in day-care centers. He said the city also has rules about communicable diseases and mandates that every staff member be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The state requires one staff member to be trained, Dr. Adcock said.

        State and local nursing home inspections are “similar,” he said. “The advantage we have is that we are local. We respond locally. We have a good handle on nursing homes in the city.”

        Mr. Shirey said the city should not have to provide inspections the state is responsible for.

        “We are the only city in the state that does its own inspections,” he said, adding that if city standards are higher, then the state should adopt them. “This doesn't mean that senior citizens and children are lesser beings.”

        Mr. Shirey said he doesn't see this as a cut so much as a way of saving money on duplicate services.

        No employees are being laid off, and the city needs to reduce expenses in order to pay for four major projects and to offset an increase in the fire department budget, he said.

        “Major surgery needs to be done on the city manager's proposal as a whole,” said Councilman Todd Portune. “There are a number of areas that need to be reallocated.”

        Mr. Portune said it “is way too early to be talking about specific cuts.”

        Councilman Charles Winburn also questioned the cuts, saying he wanted to review the state requirements with the city's. If there are substantial differences, he said the city should look at trimming the budget in other places.

        But Mayor Charlie Luken said the cuts make sense and contends there is no reason for duplicate inspections.

        “Any time the city is getting rid of services, people will say the state doesn't do as good a job,” he said, comparing this to a fight several years ago to shift gas inspections to the state department of weights and measures.

        But Tom Baumann said Wednesday this isn't the same and that the city can't afford to stop its nursing home inspections.

        “Elderly services are important. We're not just a city of bricks and mortar,” said Mr. Baumann, an insurance company owner who has sent two letters to council urging it not to approve the cuts.

        Although Mr. Baumann's wife is one of three nursing home inspectors for the city, he said that isn't his motivation.

        “As an insurance agent, I sit across from people every day who are worried about long-term care,” he said.


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