Care center transferred to Local Development Corporation

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 8/19/20

MONTICELLO, NY — And when it was over, there was no general sigh of relief. 

The Care Center at Sunset Lake, Sullivan’s county-owned nursing home, was transferred to an LDC on …

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Care center transferred to Local Development Corporation

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MONTICELLO, NY — And when it was over, there was no general sigh of relief. 

The Care Center at Sunset Lake, Sullivan’s county-owned nursing home, was transferred to an LDC on Thursday by an 8-1 vote. Legislator Luis Alvarez was the only one to vote against it.

The departure of care center administrator Sherrita Alexander was also announced at the Health and Family Services Committee meeting that same day. She had started the job on April 13.

Legislators said they would not sell the home, but the LDC would find a company to manage it. The county would remain the owner. A vote—6 out of 9 legislators—in favor by the legislature would transfer the home out of the LDC and back into county hands. 

In a surprising move, the county’s Certified Home Health Agency was also to be transferred to the LDC.

In a statement, legislative chair Rob Doherty said that leasing allows the county to transfer the operation of the care center to “an operator who will do business with our residents’ needs foremost in mind. We are not closing or selling the facility.” This process, he said, would keep the service, keep the employees “who have worked so hard over the past few months” and avoid a tax increase, layoffs and program cuts.

The LDC would be run by a committee of county residents: Nadia Rajsz from the legislature, Michelle Huck from the county manager’s office, long-term-care facility consultant Lowell Feldman, coroner Albee Bockman and lawyer William Chellis. “They will be tasked with identifying and recommending a suitable company to manage the care center. Legislators will make the ultimate decision based on the track record of the lessee and the quality of care they promise to provide,” county director of communications Dan Hust said in the statement. 

The people who have protested the potential sale since it was first announced on July 6 have not relaxed.

“I don’t like the idea of leasing, either,” said Grahamsville resident and Senior Legislative Action Committee member Priscilla Bassett. “It doesn’t seem like much of a compromise to me.” 

Cat Scott spoke several times that day in favor of keeping the care center county-owned while acknowledging the serious financial problems Sullivan faces. “I’m a little upset with how this went down today. I don’t necessarily disagree,” she said, adding that she was concerned by “the lack of representation on the LDC by an interested party for the residents.” 

There are other differences from the original LDC plan. Five people, rather than three, will serve on the committee.

It was specified that LDC meetings will be open to the public, and documents available through the Freedom of Information Law. Public comment will be allowed.

That the legislature and the county manager’s office are on the committee will provide a level of oversight during the process, county manager Josh Potosek said, as will the public nature of the meetings. 

Another change is that the county’s Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA) will also be transferred to the LDC. Asked why, Potosek replied that the legislature determined that it “would help ensure that county residents would have access to the nursing home. The operator would easily be able to move residents, currently being served by the CHHA, but who now need higher care would have access to the nursing home.”

The agency, part of the county’s public health department, sends registered nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, medical social workers and home health aides to patients in their homes. It’s a higher level of care that is “most appropriate for people with unstable or acute medical conditions, needing close nursing supervision,” says NY Health Access (www.wnylc.com/health) but is generally seen as a less-expensive alternative to nursing homes, or useful for patients discharged from the hospital but who still need care. It’s paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. NY Heath Access is funded in part by the NYS Office of the Aging and New York Community Trust. It is maintained by the work of a group of legal services attorneys and paralegals who work in the field of health and public benefits law in New York state.

There have been reports of cuts limiting home health care, either because of changes to Medicaid in 2011, or at the state level. New York, for instance, cut funding to Nascentia Health, a home health provider, in February this year. The state cited a $6 billion Medicaid shortfall. 

The 20 job cuts proposed earlier are on hold until an operator is chosen by the LDC.

Scott stressed that she didn’t disagree with the need to make changes, nor with a management company, but “we’re still open to some shaky ground here with these management companies. It’s problematic. A lot of this was rushed and a lot of this was hushed.”

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