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Feldman and Sunset Lake Local Development Corporation entertain failed Grand Healthcare

The Sullivan County Legislature listens tomorrow to a company plagued for decades with multi-million dollar U.S. Department of Labor infractions and disastrous nursing care service ratings during its attempt to gain management and possible purchase of the Sullivan County-owned 4-star rated Care Center at Sunset Lake.

Lowell Feldman, Chair of the Sunset Lake Local Development Corporation tasked with deciding the fate of the county-owned 4-star nursing facility, reports to the Sullivan County Democrat that his LDC, established by Legislature Chair Robert Doherty, has done its ” due diligence.”

So it is inexplicable how The Grand Healthcare Systems will stand before the legislature tomorrow.

Nearly fifty percent, seven out of sixteen, Grand Healthcare nursing facilities in New York State have a Medicare rating of one star – the lowest possible rating in Medicare’s nursing facility rating system. These Grand Healthcare facilities include those in Valatie, Buffalo, Oneonta, Guilderland, Ilion, Stamford and Utica.

Four more Grand Healthcare facilities, those in Chittenango Poughkeepsie and two in Rome have 2-star Medicare ratings. 75% of Grand Healthcare nursing facilities score below 3 stars.

The Care Center at Sunset Lake, on the other hand, has a Medicare rating of 4 stars. This while under direct county management. Medicare ratings for all New York nursing facilities are available at medicare.gov/care-compare.

Medical professionals and staff at Sullivan County-owned 4-star rated Care Center at Sunset Lake celebrate the holidays with center residents. The Sullivan County Legislature and its chair Robert Doherty seek to lease and potentially sell the only county-owned nursing facility in New York’s Sullivan County.

Eight Grand Healthcare facilities scored one star during health inspections over the last three years, and over 75 percent scored two-stars for staffing according to Medicare.

The Grand Healthcare facility in Utica has received 14 fire safety citations in the past 3 years, over 300% higher than the state average of 3.3. The Guilderland facility received 11 while the Buffalo and Poughkeepsie facilities received well over twice the state average at 8 fire safety citations each.

But concerns surrounding Grand Healthcare go beyond those of care and safety.

The Grand Healthcare Systems and its owner Jeremy Strauss have been the target of U.S.Department of Labor investigations for well over a decade, leading to settlements for multi-million dollar underpayment of employees in five Grand Healthcare facilities.

In an investigation of the years 2005 to 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor unearthed a systemic and blatant pattern of labor law disregard including a failure to maintain accurate time and payroll records in the Chittenango, Guilderland, Pawling, Queens and Rome facilities on the part of The Grand Healthcare Systems.

The U.S. labor department further identified $2 million in employee underpayment leading to civil penalties of $133,000 fined against the company.

Doherty has made the privatization of the Care Center at Sunset Lake a priority during his brief chairmanship of the Sullivan County Legislature in a process that privatization-opponents label opaque, confusing and at times, misleading.

He has stated publicly, and inaccurately, that the Care Center at Sunset Lake is “…a two and a half star care facility.” It is not and that statement is false. The Care Center at Sunset Lake has a four-star rating from Medicare. Quality of care at the county-owned nursing facility is not an issue for the county. Not a real issue that is.

Mr. Doherty has also asserted that off-loading the county-owned Care Center is a move toward fiscal responsibility. And in Mr. Feldman, Doherty has assigned to the task a man with some experience in nursing facility management.

Feldman owned the Fordham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at the time of that facility’s 2015 sale. And according to New York Department of Health ‘Public Health and Health Planning Council’ records, that facility was sold by Feldman following three consecutive years of $750,000 losses and with $3.25 million in unpaid benefits and back wages owed to Fordham employees.

The similarities between Feldman and Grand Healthcare-owned facilities is striking. So perhaps Grand Healthcare’s appearance before the legislature tomorrow should not be so surprising.

What is curious, however, is Doherty’s assignment of this task to a man who has failed at just the correction Doherty claims to seek.

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