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SullCo sale of Care Center stalls

Robert Doherty and Care Center logo

The plan by Robert Doherty, Republican Chairman of New York’s Sullivan County Legislature, to sell the Care Center at Sunset Lake adult nursing facility has stalled amongst fierce public resistance and a muddled justification by county officials.

Doherty, who has made privatization of the county-owned Care Center his personal project since winning the chairmanship one year ago, has been unsuccessful in responding to public criticism of a rushed, opaque process and misrepresentations of both Care Center quality and procedural milestones.

Swift movement to sell the Care Center stalled in mid-summer in the face of pubic outrage. Recently Doherty modified his position from sale to lease of the Care Center. Today the Legislature meets to begin assessing three companies put forward by the Sunset Lake Local Development Corporation tasked with managing the sale of the Care Center.

Mikhaela Singleton reports on New York State citations to The Grand at Barnwell for News10, May 26, 2020.

One of those companies, The Grand Healthcare Systems, has faced fierce criticism from families of residents over quality of care. The Grand Barnwell in the Columbia County town of Valatie received a statement of deficiency from the New York State Department of Health in May for misrepresenting COVID-19 infection and deaths at the facility.

Doherty has argued that a sale or lease of the Care Center would be financially beneficial to the County, but scrutiny of the Center’s finances suggest otherwise.

New York State grant contributions have accounted for the most variance in the Care Center’s recent budgets, ranging from a high of $10.8M in 2016 to a low of $2.6M in 2012. Care Center-generated revenue has fallen slightly over two years with a slide in occupancy rate, the income of which accounts for only a fraction of the deficit created by a lack of state support.

Grant contributions by New York State account for greatest variance in Sullivan County-owned Care Center at Sunset Lake budget.

Of more concern to Sullivan County is the percentage of Care Center residents that rely on Medicaid for Care Center service (82% in 2017), a responsibility which Care Center advocates believe remains held by the County whether or not it sells or leases the facility.

So now in addition to facing charges of misrepresenting the Care Center’s quality rating (he has referred publicly to the 4-star rated Care Center at Sunset Lake as “…a two and a half star care facility), Doherty faces criticism from local activists on misrepresenting the impact of Care Center privatization on county finances.

As the Republican-lead Sullivan County Legislature meets publicly today to further its plan to off-load the Care Center, it does so with increased questions on the shrewdness of that action.

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