Aug 3, 2010

The Disgrace of Gracedale

Northampton County Executive Stoffa, and Council President Angle, are advocating that Northampton County exit the nursing home business as soon as possible. They cite the benefit and legacy cost of the employee's as the unaffordable factor, yet claim they will protect both the employee's and patients in any sale or lease; perhaps they will include the tolls from the Brooklyn Bridge with the deal.

Lehigh County isn't far behind Northampton in this dereliction of duty. Donny Cunningham's first act as County Executive in 2006 was to unionize Cedarbrook nursing home.

I've known people who have ended up in the County Nursing Home. It was never something they planned, but they were provided with good care when they needed it the most, but could afford it the least. It is a service that we as residents of these Counties could take pride in.

Both Easton and Allentown plan on fining private property owners for vacant real estate. Both Northampton and Lehigh County have handed out tax incentives, at our expense, to certain favored businesses. Our bureaucrats seem to know how we should run our business, yet cannot maintain the historical institutions with which they were entrusted.


Bernie O'Hare said...

I did not see you at yesterday's announcement. Nor have I seen you at a single meeting in which this was discussed.

The simple reality is that it is time for counties to get out of the nursing home business. There are numerous private nursing homes all too willing to provide the same services, and do it far more efficiently than government.

What is killing the County, as Stoffa admitted yersterday, is the high cost of benefits. to the County workforce. If you asked these unionized workers to acdeptt less, how do you think they would respond?

Other counties throughout the state are making this move bc it is the fiscally prudent thing to do, and it in no way compromises the care of the elderly and indigent. That's a bugaboo, an emotional appeal created by uninformed people like you who oppose any change, even in the number of barber shops.

Patrick McHenry said...

MM -

Do you know if Gracedale is unionized?

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, once again you attack those who do not agree with your favored pols, (stoffa, angle and cunningham)
being at the meeting or announcements is not necessary to understand the ramifications and consequences, nor is my post on barbershops relevant. fyi, the quality of care at cedarbrook, and i would bet gracedale, exceeds that at almost all private nursing homes, no comparison. i put this historical responsibility of the counties for it's citizens first. you put defending stoffa's and angle's political reputation first, that's sad.

Patrick McHenry said...

MM -

Assuming that Bernie's post is correct, it would appear that Gracedale is unionized (which I suspected).

Therefore, Gracedale is just a symptom of the larger problem. The real issue is that public employee unions have raised the cost of services beyond what taxpayers can pay. It is time that elected officials, taxpayers, and even unions accept this fact.

Until government comes to grips with this reality, we can expect less and less in services despite paying (or borrowing) more. Unless something changes, government is better off outsourcing (or privatizing) EVERYTHING.

The only problem with the Gracedale "solution" is that it makes people believe that government can continue to pay extravagant wages on other programs or functions of government.

LVCI said...

Bernie said, ("There are numerous private nursing homes all too willing to provide the same services, and do it far more efficiently than government."

Unfortunately the facts in the case may not be your best friend. Unless you define efficiency as cheap while disregarding quality care as part of the trade off.

According to Medicare reports
NORTHAMPTON COUNTY (the ones that are below average)
Gracedale is "Below Average"
Easton Nursing Center "Much Below Average"
Manorcare (Easton) "MUCH BELOW AVERAGE"
New Eastwood (Easton) "MUCH BELOW AVERAGE"
Mary Ellen Hellertown "Below Average"
Moravian Village (Bethlehem) "Below Average"
Old Orchard (Easton) "Below Average"

Cedarbrook is "Average"
Fellowship Manor (Whitehall) "Average"
Liberty Nursing "Below Average"
Luther Crest "ABOVE AVERAGE"
Manorcare (Allentown) "MUCH BELOW AVERAGE"
Mosser (Trexlertown) "Below Average"
Phoebe Home "Below Average"
Topton Lutheran "MUCH BELOW AVERAGE"
Valley Manor (Coopersburg) MUCH BELOW AVERAGE"
Westminster Village (Allentown) "Average"

But I will say if there were no Gracedale in Northampton County, the Country Meadows, Holy Family Manor, Kirkland Village and Moravian Springs are all well rated and higher then Gacedale is. But stay away from Manorcare everywhere!

This site pretty much says the same thing

Here's Pa.'s Official Dept. Of Health info for Lehigh County

Here's Pa.'s Official Dept. Of Health info for Northampton County



Cedarbrook has 3.28 Nursing Hours Per Resident
Gracedale has 3.1 Nursing Hours Per Resident

LVCI said...

MM said, "being at the meeting or announcements is not necessary to understand the ramifications and consequences"

I kind of like to think my comment demonstrates that as well

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVCI and MM demonstate perfectly that a little knowledge is dangerous.

What LVCI glosses over are the numerous private NC nursing homes that are rated much higher than Gracedale. Of course, that would not help his argument so he only hints at it.

Similarly, MM is instructing what NC should do with Gracedale and incredibly doesn't even know whether it is unionized.

Neither bothers going to meetings. Neither has come up with a solution to next year's 20% tax increase or the $12-14 million swaption payment the County will have to make in 2012. Neither is probably even aware of that.

LVCI may be knowledgable about radio. MM might be knowledgable about A-town parks. Neither knows a damn thing about NC.

gary ledebur said...

MM: supporting government run health care for poor folks who cannot afford a private! I guess you want the poor to have a place to go when they get old and infirm. We will need some Spanish speaking nurses. Very progressive of you.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, why would you assume i didn't know that gracedale was unionized, because i didn't reply to a comment posted here? worse, i suspect you know that i knew, but are attempting to discredit my opinion. what i also know is that their union head also doesn't have much faith in stoffa's and angle's pledges to protect the workers.

simply put, your positions are based on the people involved, not the issue. stoffa good, pawlowski bad. dent good, callahan bad. (since he has challenged dent, previously you had no problem with him). your attacks against those who disagree with "your" people are most unbecoming. i believe the nursing homes are an important service of the county governments. i would prefer that their operation be subsidized by the elimination of other programs, such as open space and recreation. northampton will have to raise the taxes; the question is how it will serve the citizens.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are, as usual, misstaken. My argument has had nothing to do with Stoffa or Angle but has instead focused on the cold, hard facts. It is a subject I have been studying since late last year, and the report confirms what I feared. I have read the report, done to numerous meetings on this topic, have interviewed Gracedale workers and reached the only logical conclusion possible. It has to be sold or leased unless we wat a major tax increase. I've seen nothing from you to come up with some way that the County caqn close its $10 MM budget hole without doing that. And Angle and Stoffa have different ideas. One wants to sell. The other wants to lease.

My conclusion that you had no clue about the unions (there are more than one) is based on your own comments here.

What is going onin NC has already happened welsewehere. In the last year alone, f counties have solkd their nursing homes. That includes Cambria, Lackawanna, Northumberland and, most recently, Carbon.

In the Carbon deal, which went mor $48 MM and is the most recent, the Operator agreed to conditions that would ensure quality of care as well as jobs for former county workers. You make it sound like this is bullshit. It is not.

There is going to be plenty of emotion involved in this debate. There will be vote-pandering from people who know this is going to be unpopular in the short run. The unions will come in and beat this proposal with fear and paranoia.

You have added to that. And with no real knowledge of Northampton County.

LVCI said...

Bernie Says, "What LVCI glosses over are the numerous private NC nursing homes that are rated much higher than Gracedale"

Reading comprehension problem?

DID I NOT SAY (1:26 PM).."if there were no Gracedale in Northampton County, the Country Meadows, Holy Family Manor, Kirkland Village and Moravian Springs are all well rated and higher then Gacedale is." << NOTE THEY ARE NOT "much higher".. The links are there that support me.

Bernie Says, "Neither bothers going to meetings"

An none of us were in attendance for the civil war, on the moon or at the Whitehouse briefings either, but that doesn't mean ...

Bernie says, "Neither has come up with a solution to next year's 20% tax increase or the $12-14 million swaption payment the County will have to make in 2012. Neither is probably even aware of that"

Bernie lately you have been running with an awful lot loose inferences about everyone from Callahan to his two brothers, to Easton Express accident cover ups, to Allentown stonewalling you, to the state supreme court, now to myself. You've accused this of me before. Insults of my ignorance on this matter is your opinion. It does little to change my talking points where I disagree. But if it makes you happy to say you are smart and I am ignorant.. enjoy yourself.

The big challenge are the employee and retired employee costs. Those can be overcome through skilled arbitration and renegotiations. If the county doesn't have the skills there are companies that specialize in taking on unions quite successfully to gain concessions. While I can't be certain of success, little has been attempted in sincere earnest from either side before throwing Gracedale under the bus.

I am also aware that this report also suggested ways that $2.78 million could be saved. And also offered the suggestion that most other facilities don't pay for healthcare for employees after they leave until they qualify for Medicare at 65.

Another suggestion could have been to reduce beds and rent out sections to healthcare companies, etc.

So rather then take the proper mangership to sustain Gracedale it's quite obvious the county plans to take the "EASY" way out and simply dump this on private industry. It was profitable for 11 of 14 years, it can be so again. If county were so inclined to be dogged determined to make it so.

County Commissioners purchased this facility just 8 years after the Civil War in 1873 from the Moravians. For 137 years previous commissioners were good stewards who saw it through two world wars. The depression and many other ups and downs. And your telling me those currently in office don't have the ability to do what hundreds of those that came before managed to hang on to during far worse times?

Spin it any way you want.. once leased or sold County leaders no longer will have any control over the fate of the patients nor employees. No matter how ironclad a contract is made all of us know there isn't a contract in the world that a good lawyer can't wiggle out of. Once a huge nationwide nursing corporation takes over, they have a lot more lawyers, money and staying power then Northampton County could fight if they even had the will to do so in the 1st place. Which apparently they do not.

Considering council is being pretty quick to throw the facility overboard, I have little confidence that they have the best interests of the employees or patients beyond this point in time. Many of which are constituents too.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, you as usual, are acting as a propagandist for your chosen politicians.
i believe like the prison, the county has a responsibility to operate the facility, regardless of the economics involved.

LVCI said...

One final note before I wrap up any further discussion on this matter here..

The county indicated it had a number of companies interested.

BECAUSE: They smell a profit.

There's no way on God's green Earth your going to convince me that a company can maintain (little alone increase) the quality or anything else for either patients or employees, pay off the county and make a profit on top of that..

You telling me on one hand it's too expensive for the taxpayers to be burdened with Gracedale. Yet at the same time your trying to convince me a company will be able to improve, yea even be more efficient" therefore make money on the deal while still maintaining, if not offering better quality care.

Yet any company doing so has to either pay the county over $2M a year to lease OR payoff around a $30+M loan to buy. Yet they still would expect to see a profit on top of that. Otherwise why would they? How is a company can do this and while the county claims it cannot?

I still maintain under the proper direction rather then bringing in money for stockholders this should be making money for taxpayers or at least be able to break it even. So either the fact is it's a success as commercial venture is a fabrication.

Which leaves us with a third alternative. Have a good outside management firm run Gracedale properly and send county checks or at least break even. If this is not possible then neither will a company be able to either and eventually go under. Which would leave Gracedale facing a shutdown entirely.

And while there are a number of good nursing homes in NC there's simply a not enough to absorb them all if this should happen. Which leaves plenty of patients stuck out in the cold or stuck in the bottom of the barrel nursing homes.

Lt's be honest here, this has nothing to do with Gracedale and everything to do with selling them out to plug up that "$10M hole you speak about. The county wants to sell off assets to plug their budget hole. So while I am appealing for Gracedale this has nothing to do with the heart of the matter.

Hell why instead doesn't the county take out life insurances on all the patients while they're at it and wait for them to die so they can collect to fill that budget hole?

Bernie O'Hare said...


You want to be honest? Ok, let's be honest. First, you are afraid to identify yourself as a blogger, and that immediately cuts into your credibility. Second, when I asked you why you were not going to some controversial meetings in A-town some time ago, you told me you were afaid of the repercussions that might ensue. So basically, you lack the courage of your convictions. It is hard for me to respect that, and that's why I put little stock in anything you write.

Your other points (there's no way I can tell you the quality of care will be the same, etc.) are based on emotion, not logic or the facts.

I do not believe the county has an obligation to provide nursing home care when there are other facilities that will deliver the same or better quality, and the facts support my argument.

Also, there is no way that "skilled negotiation and arbitration" will close that $10 MM hole. Are you out of your mind? Counties and cities invariably LOSE arbitrations, and unions are NEVER willing to negotiate away benefits. They refused in A-town and ignored overtures from the Northampton County last year. In fact the Steelworkers are insisting on 5% raises, right now, retroactive for two years.

Also, the notion that County leaders lose control once they lease or sell, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of contract law. It is very easy to provide terms providing for a certain level of services, and failure could be met by the exercise of a reversionary clause. This has been done in other counties and there have been no complaints.

As far as my blogs concerning Pawlowski and Callahan are concerned, your objections are duly noted. My Callahan story caught the attention of the ET and I suspect the Pawlowski caper will be pursued on City Council. So I stand by what I wrote and what I learn FROM GOING TO MEETINGS and BEING WILLING TO PUT MY NAME OUT THERE.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, with the exception of lighthouse, every comment on your post about gracedale is signed anonymous. almost all comments submitted to your blog are signed anonymous; most of your dialogue is with various comments signed anonymous. lvci, while choosing to keep his identify private, has established a known "handle" and POV. I believe your attack on him may be based on his well documented and thought out arguments against the sale of gracedale.

i have made a reasonable leap of faith that gracedale and cedarbrook have much in common. i have known patients and staff at cedarbrook. the care and compassion there greatly exceeds the local nursing homes, perhaps with two exceptions; phoebe and luthercrest.

Anonymous said...

When people resort to infantile insults I know to disregard anything else they have to say.

LVCI said...

Bernie- "you are afraid to identify yourself as a blogger, and that immediately cuts into your credibility.. that's why I put little stock in anything you write.. Your other points .. are based on emotion, not logic or the facts." << In YOUR OPINION, right?

Well Bernie you certainly put me in my place. I feel so humbled.. < not really :-)

On WDIY last week you defended anonymity to the hilt. Let me point out, well over half of your blog's comments are anonymous.

On WDIY you claimed that you might average 1800 hits a day. Out of those 1800 or so maybe 20 or 30 people frequently identify themselves (by fictitious or real) names. So therefore your entire blog is based on 1.5% of those who identify themselves. The ones that you claim contribute to successes of your blog and provide a valuable stream of information.

That puts me in the other 98.5% of your world. The difference between me and those other 1770 or so other anonymous contributors to your blog is that I HAVE A BLOG. Everyone knows what I represent. A blog anyone can come to that those others do not. Sorry you need a face to go with that.

So let's face it, what really bugs you is I disagree with your "OPINION" and I'm not a meeting groupie.

Here's my view on meetings. Your attendance at meetings holds no more significance then mine by not attending them. The opinions that really matter are those that are hold official seats and are in office that are holding those meetings (your friendships aside). The only real political change can only be made by those who actually hold office. You want to be a voice for change.. run for office. Those to attend are called public "spectators" for a reason.

My sin is, once again I strayed away from sticking to my own blog when offering an opinion. I always succumb to the falsity that I should participate within the blog community of others. To make a self imposed concerted effort to contribute to the discussion at your blog Bernie. But this always ends up nearly the same way. AND I'M NOT EVEN ON YOUR BLOG RIGHT NOW!

Bernie I never do this to you and yet this is the second time you belittle me. You've done it numerous times to many people. Now your even doing it over here at MM's. And you wonder why I've stayed away so long from commenting on your blog. Twice bitten, Thrice shy.

Since you were blunt enough to provide an evaluation of my character let me return the favor.

You slams are predictable. It a flaw in your character because of having previously been "a lawyer". You run the oldest game in the book. When a witness has a strong argument against the case your representing and you can't support your argument.. you discredit the witness. You do this on a regular basis and quite predictably trash those whose opinions oppose your own . Rather then stick to the argument you go for the jugular of the person rather then the ideas expressed.

The thing that really ticks me off is each time a blogger goes at another's throat it makes us all look like assholes and drags all our creditability down with it. It's called respect for other's opinions.. some would even say a degree of professionalism. Something I've offered to you since the beginning.

So I'm glad I know where we stand. I won't waste one damn second in the future doing any kind of research or wasting my efforts to offer any kind of contribution within the comments @ LVR.

Every 1/2 hour I spend responding to this kind of baloney it becomes 1/2 hour less of what I could be doing at my own blog.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I do defend anonymity, which can be very useful in comments, when not used for personal attacks. But when the blogger himself is anonymous, it's hard for me to respect. I believe that immediately cuts into your credibility. You're unwilling to put your name out there and accept personal responsibility for what you've written.

I can understand the need in some cases, but not yours. In your case, I distinctly remember you telling me you were unwilling to go to to City Council meetings because you were afraid that it would lead to repercussions. I'm sorry, but that's hard for me to respect.

When you fail to go to meetings and really get into a story, what perspective do you provide readers that cannot be gained by reading a newspaper? I'm not seeing it.

And in the case of Gracedale, you and MM are both misinformed. That has never stopped MM, but you are a different story.

Do you know how many nursing homes have been sold by counties in the past 5 years? More than a dozen. Do you think these other counties are all heartless bastards out to privatize everything?

The reality is that the private sector can provide the same or better quality care for less money. In addition, thanks to changes in the law, many private entities are accepting Medicaid.

Some functions MUST be performed by government. This is not one of them.

Finally, you accuse me of making a personal attack bc I did not like the way things were going. Actually, you are the person who said "let's be honest" and began bringing up other blogs I've written, that offend your tender sensibilities.

I've responded with the same honesty.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, you write:
"And in the case of Gracedale, you and MM are both misinformed. That has never stopped MM, but you are a different story. "

time after time, you only question my credibility when my opinion clashes with the position of one of your favored pols, be it panto, cunningham, dent, or in this case, angle and stoffa. with you it's always the person before the policy, which gains your favor or criticism. despite your verbosity, despite the "canned" token exceptions, (like panto's wife serving on city council) this flaw is apparent to a growing number of blog readers. you put a lot of time and energy into research, meetings and producing your blog, you should not erode your reputation with such tactics.

Anonymous said...


Do you favor a 10% increase in taxes to maintain Gracedale?

michael molovinsky said...

anon 5:01, the morning call article indicated that until a couple years ago, the home was operating in the black. why wasn't there long term planning to anticipate the legacy costs? perhaps 3% yearly was necessary. here in lehigh, don cunningham got elected because they avoided a hike until a 70% increase was necessary. to answer directly, yes i would favor the 10% increase to save the county nursing home. then i would examine the budget for priorities, and then the elected officials for planning skills.

Anonymous said...

Since when does refusing to get involved in someone else's pi**ing match equate to cowardice? Only in Bernie's world.