County Legislature moves forward on Summit Park LDC

By Michael Riconda

New City – In a special session on Tuesday, July 23, the Rockland County Legislature made progress on the planned sale of the Summit Park Nursing Care Facility, appointing three members to the recently-formed local development corporation tasked with finding prospective buyers for the financially-troubled nursing home.

The Legislature selected its three appointees to the Rockland County Health Facilities Corporation, a not-for-profit LDC formed to encourage buyers to consider purchasing the 321 bed nursing home. The LDC was formed as a means to find and engage buyers directly while avoiding legislative red tape which could impede the sale.

The legislature selected three nominees, which included Superintendent of Nyack Schools Roberta P. Zampolin, Fenster & Kurland LLP Partner Adam Keith Kurland Esq., former Helen Hayes CEO Magdalena Ramirez. The other four nominees were selected by County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and include Raymond Sheridan Financial Inc. President Raymond W. Sheridan, Rockland County Commissioner of Social Services Susan Sherwood, Michael Shilale Architects LLP Partner Michael Shilale and Rockland Realty President Steven Yassky.

In spite of prior opposition to the formation of the LDC itself, the resolution appointing Zampolin, Kurland and Ramirez passed unanimously. Legislator Douglas Jobson, who initially opposed the LDC, explained his prior objections did not reflect upon his approval of the appointees.

“It’s no secret that I was against the formation of this and I still feel that way, but I am going to go forward with an open mind by supporting these new folks,” Jobson explained.

Legislator Ed Day, who was absent from the meeting, also expressed support for the appointments, referring to the appointees as “people generally of very high quality,”

Over the past few years, Summit Park’s deficit has grown to about one third of the county’s overall deficit, making county ownership a difficult and costly prospect. The county’s stated inability to maintain the facility led it to a controversial decision in April which transferred control of the nursing home to the LDC, with the adjoining hospital remaining in public hands for now.

“By creating an LDC, we satisfy the bond rating agencies that have urged us to come up with a plan for the facility,” Vanderhoef explained. “In addition, revenues from the sale will be used both to pay off existing Summit Park debt and to reduce the County deficit.”

The sale, though widely criticized for placing the home in the care of a private group, follows a statewide trend toward privatization of public nursing homes. The trend is expected to continue as pensions increase and Medicare reimbursements decrease.

“We know we have a growing elderly population and a rate that far outpaces national and state averages and we’re going to be seeing greater needs,” Legislative Chairwoman Harriet Cornell explained. “It’s sad that we don’t have the financial resources to deal with these infrastructure problems and the ever-increasing cost of staff at Summit Park.”

When the plan was announced, concerns mounted among nursing home employees, patients and their families over quality of care and job security of Summit Park staff. Though the county is still bound to existing labor agreements prior to the sale, action by the facility’s owners following the sale and subsequent expiration of labor agreements remains to be seen.

However, according to the county, any buyer will be expected to follow to the same state and federal safety standards as public nursing homes, including adherence to state laws regarding safe discharges. Prior to the sale, operations will remain as-is.

Completion of the sale is estimated to take 12-18 months. In the meantime, any prospective buyer must obtain a license and pass a Character and Competency Review by the NYS Dept. of Health.