Letter: Burgess discusses VNA decision


To the editor,

I would like to start out by saying thank you to all of the employees, both past and present, at the Naugatuck VNA who have served our community. The Naugatuck VNA has offered the best care to our residents that anyone could have asked for. The Borough of Naugatuck has been very fortunate to have had this organization serve our borough for so many years. The level of dedication that the staff has shown has been nothing short of amazing.

Speaking for myself, the move to end the relationship between the Naugatuck VNA and the borough has not been an easy one. Prior to being elected Burgess, I knew very little about the Naugatuck VNA, which is why I asked Mayor Mezzo to appoint me as burgess liaison to the VNA advisory board. During the few short months I served as burgess liaison to the advisory board I learned a lot. Although I was not able to go out on any visits with nurses, which is something I regret not doing, I did learn a lot from the people who sat on the advisory board. The Naugatuck VNA is an organization that not only provides home health care, but also provides blood clinics and other invaluable community services. Our borough has a stronger sense of community because of organizations like the VNA. 

In 2008 the nation was hit with one of the worst economic downturns that we have ever faced. This downturn forced many people out of work and forced many businesses to close. Naugatuck and the State of Connecticut were not immune from the effects of the 2008 economic downturn. The nation is also moving into a post-industrial era, where we no longer have the large factories that once supported our towns and cities by paying taxes. As the tax base moves from large factories to smaller businesses and homeowners, the revenue stream becomes less. Our residents have been burdened with tax increases year after year.

One of the most difficult decisions I have ever made was to support defunding of the Naugatuck VNA. Having the honor of serving on the advisory board, even though it was just for seven short months, taught me a lot about the organization. The decision to vote to fund the agency for half a year, which in effect is closing the agency, did not come easily for me. The Naugatuck VNA has been a huge part of our community, and its employees have served our residents with the utmost professionalism and dignity. Not enough good things can be said about the Naugatuck VNA. 

However, as costs have increased year after year, it has become harder to create a reasonable budget. As public servants we are entrusted to create a budget that is fiscally responsible and places a minimum burden on borough taxpayers. As the health care market changes every day and municipalities are having a much harder time competing with the larger home health care agencies, it has become more difficult to fund smaller municipal home health care agencies. A number of factors have led to the Naugatuck VNA losing patients, which has led to decreased revenues. The higher the loss of revenue, the higher the costs have become for the borough. 

As we look for ways to save taxpayers money, we have had to make hard choices that we did not want to make, but decisions that had to be made. In a perfect world, where revenues would be endless, I would never have voted to end the relationship with the VNA. However, the world we live in is far from perfect and revenues are not endless.  With more and more unfunded state and federal mandates placing additional burdens on both the borough and Board of Education budgets, hard choices have to be made. We have to cut funding in certain areas to comply with these mandates or taxes will increase astronomically.

There is a concern on the part of borough residents that the people who use the VNA will lose visiting nurse care once the organization ceases operations. This is a very understandable and real concern, especially if you or a loved one has used the Naugatuck VNA for many years. Even those who have never used the VNA have a very viable concern that people in the community will be left without care. The simple fact is that, although it will not be the Naugatuck VNA coming into homes to provide residents with care, residents will still receive nurse care. Patients will work with their doctors to determine which VNA organization will come into their homes to provide care for them after the Naugatuck VNA stops seeing patients. There will still be nurses coming into patients’ homes, but they will not be affiliated with the title of the Naugatuck VNA.  

In closing I would like to once again thank the staff at the Naugatuck VNA for their many years of hard work, service and dedication. They are the best nurses, office personnel, home health care aids and administrators that anyone could have asked for.  Their dedication and resilience has been outstanding. The borough is fortunate to have had this organization be part of our community for so many years, and it is with great sadness that we see this part of our community cease to exist.  

Alex Olbrys