NY urged to approve Livingston Hills sale

Workers at Livingston Hills Nursing Home urge the state to approve the sale of the facility. Natasha Vaughn/Columbia-Greene Media

HUDSON — Local officials and caregivers rallied at Livingston Hills Nursing Home late Monday calling on New York state to approve the sale of the facility.

The union 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East represents some of Livingston Hills’ caregivers.

“The reason why we are all here today is because we are urging, pleading, the Department of Health to immediately approve the sale of Livingston Hills Nursing Home,” said Kim Lyons, an organizer for 1199 SEIU. “For far too long, residents, their families and the caregivers have been riding a dangerous rollercoaster of uncertainty.”

She talked about the challenges facing caregivers at the facility such as short-staffing, mandated work beyond their regular shifts and potentially losing their health benefits a number of times.

The current owners have not been honest in making payments to the employee benefit fund, Lyons said.

A potential new owner, Jack Koschitizki, has been prepared to purchase the nursing home since January, said Greg Speller, executive vice president for the Hudson Valley Capital District of Local 1199. The workers have held a number of previous rallies discussing ongoing issues at the facility under the current owner Jeffrey Vegh.

“It is now imperative that a new, responsible owner step in,” Lyons said. “We are confident that Mr. Koschitizki is ready and able to do the right thing that the residents and caregivers at Livingston Hills Nursing Home need.”

The facility can’t be sold until the Office of Primary Care and Health Systems Management of the state Department of Health approves the transaction.

“Residents deserve to keep their home that they’ve called home for many years, and see a better future under new ownership,” Speller said. “Workers deserve to keep their jobs and great benefits, and see a better future under a new owner. The community and family members of the residents are crying out.”

Koschitizki owns a five-star facility in Dutchess County. He also inherited a facility called The Eleanor Nursing Care Center in Dutchess County which has a one-star rating.

“He inherited that, and it has not been surveyed or inspected since he took over ownership,” Speller said. “So it’s a little unfair that the state would make a decision like this. It’s like hiring a new coach after a losing season, you don’t blame the new coach for the losing season. That would be incredibly unfair.”

Workers are continuously faced with the possibility of losing their health benefits, said AnnMarie Fran, a housekeeper who has worked at Livingston Hills for three years.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride between possibly losing our health benefits and not getting paid the wages that we feel we deserve and not being able to provide the care that we want to because of such short-staffing,” Fran said. “And because of the wages that are driving new potential employees away from Livingston Hills, we feel that it is very urgent that the sale go through, that the Department of Health approve the sale because the survival of Livingston Hills really depends on it.”

Many workers at Livingston Hills come from Hudson, said Mayor Kamal Johnson. They could have gone anywhere to work, but they chose to work at Livingston Hills.

“I’m urging the Department of Health to approve this sale so these workers can have a fresh start for themselves, but also for the residents,” Johnson said. “There’s lives at risk, and opportunities that we’re missing right now.”

1199 SEIU champions nursing home reform, Speller said. One of the reforms was not allowing bad nursing home operators to purchase more nursing homes in the state of New York, he added.

“If they can’t operate a facility, and take good care of the residents they shouldn’t be allowed to purchase new homes,” Speller said. “We understand and appreciate the state following new guidelines, and making sure bad operators don’t get to buy new homes, but this is clearly not the case in this particular instance.”

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