Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Worker’s Union Will Fight Privatization of Crest Haven Nursing Home

Courtesy Google Maps
Crest Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is currently operated by county government. The union representing Crest Haven’s workforce says that a county-led effort to privatize the facility is happening too quickly, and the decision was made in haste.

Christopher South

COURT HOUSE – The union that represents the majority of workers employed by Cape May County believes that county government is moving way too fast in its plans to privatize the Crest Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Steve Tully, executive director for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 63, said the decision is premature and will ultimately hurt a large group of workers and patients at Crest Haven – and the union will fight to prevent it.

“We don’t think the timeline is realistic. They released the decision in mid-August and have a deadline (for RFPs) in September, the commissioners will vote on it in October and have it up and running in January?” Tully said. “They don’t even know who the vendor is yet.”

“We are against privatizing Crest Haven and will fight to prevent it,” he said.

Tully said he did not know all the county’s reasoning for wanting to privatize the nursing home – reasons which County Counsel Jeff Lindsay outlined in another Herald article, but he said he would not be surprised by anything the county said.

Tully said the county notified the union just minutes before it announced the proposed change to employees and residents at Crest Haven. He said that this fast timeline suggests a lack of transparency on the matter. But most disconcerting, Tully said, was the county’s expectation of a seamless transition from Crest Haven being county operated to being run by a private vendor.

“That is a mistaken assumption. There is no guarantee of positions for workers when they bring in a private vendor, there is no guarantee for wages. There is a mention in the RFP about health benefits but no guarantee it will meet the level of healthcare they have or the cost. The RFP mentioned retirement but it’s very vague and it would be hard to believe a vendor would match the county’s pension plan,” Tully said.

Tully said, in an environment where the entire state is facing a shortage of CNAs, Crest Haven could end up losing CNAs and dietary staff, for example, who would like to stay and love working there. At the end of the day, he said, workers have to take care of their own families and there is a good chance that many will look for other options.

Tully said the county has overlooked the employees’ wants and needs and has also ignored the needs of the residents and their families.

“The new vendor will be looking to make money and the only way to do it is to cut employees and reduce the level of care to residents. They will cut the basics residents have come to expect, and they will cut wages, pensions, etc.,” he said.

“The quality of care people have come to expect will be jeopardized.”

Tully said if the county was interested in making changes to its long-term care facility it should have approached the people who are most impacted, the residents, their families, and the workers, before simply announcing a change.

He said they should have spoken to the workers, who could tell them the impact on the residents, as well as broaching the idea with residents and families. Tully said there were meetings with employees after the announcement came, but AFSCME is very concerned about how the procedure is going to play out. Employees with more seniority would be able to bump a more junior employee with the same title in another department.

Tully said that privatizing the nursing home operations at Crest Haven is far from the done deal the county is presenting. He said no vendor has responded to the RFP, and the county doesn’t know what the bids are going to look like or if the vendors will meet the standards for operation and care.

He said the highest bidder could have an atrocious history of treating residents. He also questioned what private vendor would want to operate a facility that has a history of losing money.

“Look, they are not selling something here; we are talking about investing in taking care of people. If the county is not making a profit, a private vendor won’t make a profit unless it cuts the quality of care and reduces the workforce,” he said.

Tully said the union is not in agreement with what the county is doing and intends to fight it. A contingent of employees and union representatives planned to be at Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting to voice opposition to the change.

“First and foremost, we need to get the commissioners to take a second look at their decision and get input from families, residents, and workers. Not all decisions are about dollars and cents, and this is one of those cases,” Tully said.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at or 609-8860-8600, ext. 128.


Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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