STATEMENT OF CAPE MAY COUNTY COMMISSION DIRECTOR LEN DESIDERIO ON THE PROPOSED PRIVATIZATION OF THE CREST HAVEN NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER
The County of Cape May is faced with a difficult decision on the continued government operation of the Crest Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (“CHNRC”). This is a question that has faced many New Jersey Counties. Over the past decade, Salem, Mercer, Monmouth, Burlington, Cumberland and Morris Counties, as well as others have all reached the same conclusion that Cape May County has now reached.
For the past two years, the County of Cape May has taken a very hard look at CHNRC operations, including having our Auditor and Chief Financial Officer look back over several years to assess the financial health of the facility. During this time, the County also worked hard to stabilize the management and staffing at the facility, which was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to overcome the industry push towards the home health model. We found that from 2018 through 2021, our facility operated at a total taxpayer-covered deficit of over $26 million. The Board of Commissioner’s responsibility is to all the taxpayers, and it is clear that the long-term care facilities in Cape May County are able to provide the care that is needed in our community. It is no longer feasible for taxpayers to shoulder the amount it costs to operate Crest Haven. As so many other New Jersey County governments have concluded, the operation of long-term care facilities is best left to the private sector.
Our first concern is for the residents of Crest Haven. A contract will only be awarded to a company that has the dedication and ability to continue to provide the best care to Crest Haven residents. No resident will be turned out and the County will assist every family throughout any facility transition.
The employees of Crest Haven are also of paramount concern to the Board of Commissioners. With that in mind, any contract will have to include a commitment to retain as many current employees as possible. The County is also retaining a substantial number of employees and moving them laterally within the County workforce. The County is committed to ensuring that no one will lose their job.
This was a big decision for the County, and it was a hard decision, but sometimes the easy decision is not the right decision. It might be easier not to change. But it would be unfair to ask County taxpayers to continue to cover an annual operating deficit that has reached over $7 million and is projected to surpass $10 million per year before the end of the decade.
We know not everyone will agree with this decision, but as so many of our fellow Counties have done over the past several years, it is time for Cape May County to ensure the long-term care of the Crest Haven residents while relieving taxpayers of an unsustainable and growing multi-million-dollar annual deficit.