LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County lawmakers are balking at the $75,000 a week cost of testing nursing home employees.
Deputy County Administrator Kelly Reed, who also serves as nursing home administrator, said the state came through with hundreds of test kits and the county plans to begin to test its employees in the Olean and Machias nursing homes this week.
While there was no cost for the tests, it costs $100 to analyze each test, Reed added. That’s $75,800 a week for twice a week testing of employees at the Pines Healthcare and Rehabilitation Centers. The county is looking at another testing offer with a $65 cost, she said.
Reed was speaking to members of the Cattaraugus County Legislature’s Human Services Committee, where Chairman Kelly Andreano, R-Olean, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the testing “so he would feel better.”
The governor previously ordered nursing homes to take in residents after they were treated for COVID-19 in hospitals. The disease has taken a heavy toll on nursing home residents across the state.
However, no COVID-19 deaths have been reported in any nursing homes or assisted living facilities in Cattaraugus County.
Finance Committee Chairman Andrew Burr, R-Gowanda, said he would introduce a resolution at next Wednesday’s meeting opposing the governor’s order for the twice weekly nursing home testing.
“It is having an extremely negative effect on the county,” Burr said. Not only the county nursing homes, but private nursing homes are also required to do the testing. The county nursing homes currently have a surplus, but at $300,000 a month in testing expenses, funds would not last long.
“It could bankrupt nursing homes, then what would we do?” Burr said.
He suggested the county seriously consider an earlier proposal to buy a testing machine.
“Could we become our own lab?” he asked Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins.
“Yes,” Watkins replied. The fly in the ointment is that there is no guarantee the county could obtain the reagent needed to analyze the tests.
The public health director said he would continue to work on the proposal.
Watkins was also pressed on testing residents of senior housing complexes — particularly in Salamanca — by Legislator David Koch, D-Salamanca. Current testing is centered on drive-thru sites in Allegany and Cattaraugus.
“We talked about having a mobile team we could take to various locations. It would be a great idea to do something of this magnitude.”
Legislator Norman Marsh, R-Little Valley, asked if the state would be able to supply enough tests for all nursing homes in the state.
Watkins replied that the state has promised routine delivery each week. “We do have a second (backup) option, a New Jersey lab,” he added.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)