Families protest care center sale

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 7/14/20

MONTICELLO, NY — Just slow down.

That’s the message people are sending to the Sullivan County Legislature when it comes to the decision to sell the Care Center at Sunset …

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Families protest care center sale

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MONTICELLO, NY — Just slow down.

That’s the message people are sending to the Sullivan County Legislature when it comes to the decision to sell the Care Center at Sunset Lake. 

The Sullivan County Legislature made the decision on Thursday, July 2 to begin the process of selling the facility, which provides skilled nursing care as well as long-term care. It has scheduled a public hearing for comments on the creation of a Local Development Corporation (LDC), which is necessary in selling the center.

The legislature said the county’s fiscal crisis forced the decision, noting in a press release that “the existing accumulated deficit balloons to nearly $22 million when factoring in long-term liabilities like post-employment benefits, accrued compensation and vacation, and depreciation of the 30-year-old facility.” 

Questions have arisen about how those projections were arrived at, or whether the $22 million includes the cost of the Sunset Lake facility, which was purchased in 1990.

At Thursday’s Health and Family Services Committee meeting, Ken Walter of the Senior Legislative Action Committee (SLAC) focused on the needs of county seniors and the disabled. “I feel we’re going in the wrong direction. That facility is there for us, the residents of Sullivan County.” 

This echoes a general fear that the home will sell to a private owner who could choose to close it and use the building for something else, or who might keep it as a nursing home but with different goals. Concerns were voiced that the new owners might focus more on profit than on patient care. Patients could be cherry-picked for conditions with higher Medicaid reimbursement rates, or space for Medicaid patients could be cut back. People feared that then the county’s poorest seniors and the disabled would have to seek long-term care elsewhere, possibly hours away. 

Those being discharged from the hospital to a rehab center might also have difficulty getting a bed in a Sullivan County facility, was an additional concern.

The worry over substandard care in for-profits isn’t unfounded.

“Generally speaking, for-profits put less of the funds that they receive into resident care, including such things as staffing and food,” said Richard J. Mollott, executive director of the New York City-based Long Term Care Community Coalition. “While there are good and bad facilities on both sides of the profit divide, the nonprofits and government-owned tend to be better overall.”

A 2018 study in Gerontology found that residents of for-profit nursing homes were almost twice as likely to suffer “adverse health problems as a result of substandard care,” the American Journal of Managed Care reported. 

Attempts are ongoing to reach a for-profit nursing home for comment.

“To provide necessary and vital care for our most vulnerable population” is vital, said Lou Setren, a member of the care center’s family council. “To sacrifice that for short-term fiscal gain is unconscionable.” 

Slowing the sale process down would allow the legislature to consider other options in the ongoing need to raise money. 

 “[The care center] never makes money, and the reason it never makes money is that the state and federal government... don’t pay a fair share of reimbursement,” Walter said at the meeting. “It’s one of the biggest issues that we have going on.” 

But that doesn’t make it the fault of the care center, some said. And the reasons to keep it as it is go beyond the fiscal. 

“This shouldn’t be a political consideration,” Lou Setren said. “It’s a human consideration.” 

The care center “is essential for the citizens of this county,” Priscilla Bassett, former head of SLAC, said. “All of us may end up there at some point.” 

A public hearing was to be held after press time on Tuesday, July 14 at 8 a.m., followed by a meeting to get the process started. A report of the meeting is available at www.riverreporter.com.

A fact sheet, issued by the county and updated on July 13 is available at www.bit.ly/RRcarecenterfacts.

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