What the care center’s prospective managers had to say

Posted 1/27/21

MONTICELLO, NY — On Thursday, January 21, three companies vying to be the manager of Sullivan’s only county-owned nursing home made their cases to the legislature. The audience, composed …

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What the care center’s prospective managers had to say


MONTICELLO, NY — On Thursday, January 21, three companies vying to be the manager of Sullivan’s only county-owned nursing home made their cases to the legislature. The audience, composed of families of residents and longtime supporters of the Care Center at Sunset Lake, held signs and watched quietly. Public comment was deferred to a later date.

Here’s the important takeaway: If you have a loved one in the Care Center at Sunset Lake, or if long-term care in the county is important to you, this reporter recommends you watch the streamed presentations yourself. While the speakers actually spoke to the legislature, the real audience is you. The three-hour presentation is worth your time because they’re talking about the life of someone you care about. See link below.

For a moment, set aside the buildings, pretty or efficient, the smiling filmed faces and even the Medicare star ratings. Remember that this, as commenter Lise Kennedy pointed out in the health and family services committee meeting, is a sales pitch. 

Note: The companies had not been in the building due to COVID-19 restrictions and, therefore, couldn’t comment on what improvements they would implement. 

Infinite Care

Based in Brooklyn, NY with 18 facilities under their umbrella, their closest buildings are Ten Broeck Commons and Golden Hill, both in the Kingston area. They began as an optical shop nine years ago and were a service provider in a local nursing home. When they had the opportunity to take over the place, they did. 

Several points stood out in their presentation. They are hard to find online, they said, because they let the individual facility shine. The word “community” came up over and over. What does the community need? What do the staff need? Staff support depends on what’s needed (transportation, daycare, continuing education are all programs they’ve offered elsewhere). Do people need memory care? If so, they’ll make sure that’s available. 

Many of their residents are Medicaid recipients, they said, because that is who is in the community. Financial stability didn’t seem to be a concern.

And “the best possible management team is a local management team,” one speaker said. 

The Grand Healthcare System (GHS)

The pitch was forceful. At one point, CEO Jeremy Strauss said, “Whatever the county is losing, that stops at day one.” 

Rob Doherty opened by asking about the RaeJean Wallace video. Wallace was a rehab patient at The Grand in Rome, NY and made a video last summer of conditions there. Representatives from GHS said that she had been in six or seven facilities and made allegations at each place. A New York State Department of Health (DOH) investigation, they said, called the allegations unfounded.

At this point, protesters at the legislative meeting stood up with signs opposing GHS. 

GHS began under a different name in 1998 and rebranded under its current name in 2014. They had several facilities for more than three years; in total, GHS has 2,500 beds and 3,000 staff. 

The company addressed the $2 million Department of Labor (DOL) fine, saying that between 2014 and 2016, the DOL audited every skilled nursing facility in New York, arguing that many other companies also paid significant fines, but records of those fines were sealed.

Strauss talked about the situation in Buffalo, NY, explaining that the company was asked by the state to close Emerald South when they took over. Similarly, the state asked them to turn Guilderland around rather than simply close it for quality reasons. It’s “our largest success story,” he said. 

The company also talked about G ratings, citations of actual harm that is limited to a few people in a nursing home. “Gs are not uncommon and we have had them occasionally.”

Would they work with local employees or bring in their own people? “We are not a downstate crew running upstate or an upstate crew running downstate,” he said. “We build local teams.” 

They’ll keep “anyone who’s eligible and capable of doing their job,” one speaker said. Continuing education will be offered, meals and uniforms are free. They said they’ll give “everything we can, because we want people to wake up and say, ‘I want to go to work, I want to do a good job,’” Strauss said.

VestraCare/the McGuire Group

Legislative chair Rob Doherty quickly brought up G findings at one facility; the company answered that those were left over from a previous owner and that three improved surveys from DOH were needed before it could be removed. They had two, and then the pandemic delayed the third survey.

A key part of their presentation was that they’ve owned the Roscoe Rehabilitation and Nursing Center since 2018. Joy Wood, the longtime director, was there to talk about what VestraCare/McGuire had done for the struggling facility, including picking up staff on Christmas Eve, providing better technology and even plowing. “Anything that works, we’ll do,” said Edward Farbenblum, co-owner of VestraCare and its affiliated companies.

The home, in fact, was just ranked in the top quintile in the DOH’s Nursing Home Quality Initiative. Read  more below.

VestraCare has taken over two county-run homes. “It’s a little jarring,” Farbenblum said. You “deal with labor, deal with the public perception.” 

The company has 3,200 beds. One of their facilities, Harris Hill, served as a COVID-19 building for the chain and it was “the first nursing home in the U.S. to use monoclonal antibody treatments. Now we’re doing it in five of our facilities,” he said.

They were asked about DOL fines. Farbenblum said they had not had a large DOL issue, even in the years that New York nursing homes were audited, and added that they have a large union presence in their buildings. 

The company had owned Golden Hill but sold it because it was too far from their other buildings. He praised Infinite Care’s Sol Klein, who now owns it.

When the presentations were finished, the legislature and the companies all went into executive session. No indication was given of when a decision would be made.

View the full presentation at www.bit.ly/sccarecenter04


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