In 2008, Warren Haven was at 98 percent occupancy, said Olshefski. In 2010, it dropped to 95 percent. And in 2011 and 2012, it dropped to 89 percent.

   County officials said there is no waiting list for people to get into Warren Haven.

   Olshefski said even 100 percent occupancy would not solve Warren Haven’s financial problem. “They are swimming upstream.”

      Officials cited several reasons for the decline in occupancy.

    “There has been a concerted effort on the part of the federal government to care for these people in their home environments,” said Charles “Pete” Houck, the county’s chief financial officer. “Why? Because it’s cheaper. So people stay in their homes longer.”

      The economy is another factor, said Decker:  “More folks are keeping grandma at home because the husband lost his job and grandma gets $600 a month in Social Security, so that helps them. Or they can’t sell grandma’s house.”

      When elderly folks do go to Warren Haven, they are much older and sicker than patients in past years, said Decker.

     “And they don’t last as long, to be blunt about it,” said county administrator Steve Marvin.

   “It’s a revolving door,” agreed Houck, who said people who are older and less healthy

require more hands-on, labor-intensive care, which is more costly.

Outside contractors

         Marvin anticipates the 2013 county budget will be introduced at the Feb. 27 freeholders meeting and adopted at their March 27 meeting.

      Warren Haven is requesting $11.1 million for its 2013 operating budget, $100,000 less than in 2012.

    How much the freeholders actually give the nursing home will be impacted by whether they do decide to contract outsiders for laundry, housekeeping and dietary services.

    On Feb. 21, bids will be opened from companies interested in providing those services at the nursing home. 

     The county hopes to save more than $1 million by doing that, said Olshefski, but the jobs of 68 employees now providing those services in-house probably will be eliminated, after 90 days’ notice.

   He predicted if those services are contracted out, the change won’t happen until mid-year.

   “Every nursing home in the state has contracted out some or all of these services,” said Sarnoski. “Where they haven’t contracted out these services, they sold the facility. It’s a necessary step in controlling expenses. It has to be looked at.”

   Warren Haven currently has 250 employees, said Olshefski. If the nursing home would be sold, they could be rehired by new operators, but possibly at lower salaries with fewer benefits.

Capital improvements needed

    The nursing home requested $1.74 million for capital improvements this year, but freeholders plan to approve only $244,000, said Olshefski.

    Patient room renovations and replacement of windows, both requested since 2004, have been pushed back to at least 2014, as has a new HVAC system for the kitchen.

     Sarnoski said by July, freeholders may have to consider a capital bond question on improvements needed to maintain Warren Haven. “We’re talking about $1.7 million in upgrades coming up in the next year.”

     Such a bond question could go on the county ballot in November. Sarnoski said results of that vote “could tell us if the public wants to maintain the facility.”

 Some good news