Waterfront Healthcare Center Will Remain Open

August 10, 2011 Updated Aug 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Waterfront Healthcare Center Will Remain Open

August 10, 2011 Updated Aug 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Department of Health has named Specialty Care Group, a long term care provider based in the New York City area, as the receiver and new operator of Waterfront Healthcare Center.

The 120 bed facility has been a part of the Kaleida Health system. The change is effective Monday, August 15.

In late 2009, Kaleida announced plans to close the nursing home. However, strong opposition from community and religious groups, politicians and the employees of Waterfront forced Kaleida to keep the facility open until a buyer could be found.

In March of this year, Specialty Care Group made an initial offer to take control of the money loosing nursing home, but demanded deep wage and benefit cuts from employees in return. The 170 LPNs, Certified Nursing Assistants, Activity Aides, dietary, housekeeping and maintenance workers represented by 1199 Service Employees International Union overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.

After trading several proposals and counter proposals over the past several months, the Union and Specialty Care Group agreed to submit the dispute over the term of a new collective bargaining agreement to binding arbitration. The arbitration was held in late July. A decision is expected from the arbitrator before the end of the week.

“The members of 1199 voted to go to arbitration, hoping for a fair settlement,” said Debbie Rivers, a C.N.A at Waterfront. “We are willing to make some sacrifices in order to keep Waterfront open. The residents are like our extended family, we don’t want to see this place- their home- close.”

The financial problems at Waterfront have come after deep cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates from New York State. Although the facility has had high occupancy rates, Waterfront has lost an average of $1.3 million over the last three years. Four skilled nursing facilities have closed in Buffalo alone in the since 2007 eliminating over 700 jobs.

“Our members have fought hard to keep this facility open, even though they knew that to do so would likely mean accepting wage and benefit cuts,” said 1199 Vice-President Todd Hobler. “It has been a long difficult struggle. We await the arbitration decision, but we are finally hopeful for the future of Waterfront.”