Care concerns at Sunset Lake

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 4/19/22

LIBERTY, NY — A litany of complaints came up at the April 14 meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature, attesting to a concerning level of care at the Care Center at Sunset Lake.

The care …

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Care concerns at Sunset Lake

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LIBERTY, NY — A litany of complaints came up at the April 14 meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature, attesting to a concerning level of care at the Care Center at Sunset Lake.

The care center has inspired extensive debate over the past two years. The legislature transferred ownership of the facility to the Sunset Lake Local Development Corporation (LDC) in August of 2020, and hired Infinite Care to manage the center in February of 2021.

When legislators chose Infinite Care to manage the center, they praised the quality of care seen at the other nursing homes under its jurisdiction. That quality of care has reportedly failed to appear at the care center, as attested to in a public discussion at the meeting.

Catherine Scott, vice-president of the care center’s family council, attested personally to the level of care at the center: her mother, a resident at the center, had recently fallen and broken her hip.

The care center did not have enough staff to properly take care of its residents, said Scott. Inifinite Care had stated in conversation with the family council that the center could accommodate between 85 and 95 residents, depending on the level of care needed. That number had been 96 on the day Scott’s mother fell; while it had more recently stabilized, another instance had seen two staffers present to take care of 31 residents for a shift. At other times, due to a lack of staff, residents had to eat meals isolated in their rooms, be confined to their beds at two in the afternoon or wait extended periods to be cleaned up.

The family council did not have a complaint with the staff currently at the facility, said Lou Setren, that body’s president. It recognized, as well, that Infinite Care had made efforts to recruit more staff.

Those efforts had made a negligible impact, said Setren, and the ultimate responsibility for a lack of staff rested with the legislature, as the ultimate operator of the care center.

Legislators agreed with the family council’s concerns about the care center, with several legislators saying they had received calls from concerned residents.

A distinct lack of information about the care center compounded legislator’s concerns; neither Infinite Care nor the LDC had ever appeared before the legislature to provide updates on their progress.

Legislators heard a few suggestions to improve the care center’s quality of care. Commissioner of Human Resources Julie Diescher discussed a plan to move some of the vacancies around, swapping harder-to-fill CNA positions with domestic aides, to better support the staff on critical shifts. Deischer also discussed a trainee program and the formalization of an informal volunteer program that existed previously at the care center.

A resolution passed by the legislators addressed the financial angle. Out-of-pocket rates paid by residents were raised from $270 daily to $300 daily ($9,000 per month) for a semi-private room, and $280 daily and $325 daily ($9,750 per month) for a private room, with the justification that “the existing private payment rates do not cover the costs per day running the facility.”

Ultimately, legislators agreed that the LDC (and potentially Infinite Care) had to come before the legislature and inform them of the status of the facility.

“We have to make sure the care we’re giving the residents there is top quality… I want to make sure that it’s addressed, and that, to be quite frank, to make sure that it’s not just being watched so someone can buy the facility and not lease it,” said legislator Ira Steingart.

Arcadia Residents

The legislature passed a resolution concerning a separate care facility on April 14, authorizing the county manager to execute agreements with Greater Adult Neighbors DBA Arcadia Residents, an assisted living program.

During that meeting’s public comment period, frequent commenter and former director of patient services Lise Kennedy cautioned against that resolution.

Arcadia had been open previously, said Kennedy, at which time it provided a notoriously low level of care. She urged that those responsible for ensuring care in the county become more deeply informed about Arcadia before it is reopened.

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