County expects $10 million of deficit reduction from Summit Park sale, but fate of employees remains uncertain

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

Shalom Braunstein, County Executive Ed Day and Legislature Chairman Alden Wolfe
Shalom Braunstein, County Executive Ed Day and Legislature Chairman Alden Wolfe

NEW CITY – The details are out and it is now all but certain: Summit Park’s hospital and nursing care center will have a new owner sometime within the next few years.

County Executive Ed Day joined Sympaticare Health LLC President Shalom Braunstein, County Legislative Chairman Alden Wolfe, and a number of other local officials and private parties involved in the sale for a press conference on July 23 to present the details of the 99-year lease between the county and Bernstein’s Summit Park Acquisition Group, an LLC established to acquire the Summit Park facility.

The deal includes Building A of the health center and an attached portion of Building E. The County will lease for the price of $36 million with a $3 million deposit. Of that, the hospital will cost $12 million while the nursing care center will cost $24 million.

The county will use revenues from the sale primarily to finance preliminary costs associated with the deal. Estimated expenses include $12 million in outstanding bonds, $8 million in legacy costs, $2 million in closing costs and $4 million in relocation costs.

When all expenses have been paid, the county stands to see $10 million in debt reduction from the deal, County Executive Ed Day said. Legislator Wolfe confirmed the legislature has already committed these funds toward deficit reduction.

Though the deal is technically a lease, Braunstein is contractually permitted to request the deed any time after the deal is finalized. Hence, the deal is functionally similar to the sale of a house, with lease payments preceding the final handover of ownership documents. The transfer will likely occur in 2015.

As for the patients, Day promised all residents would continue to be residents and would not be forced out without their consent, but was murkier on the details of the 516 hospital and nursing home employees and the undetermined number of ancillary employees affected by the deal. Both Day and Braunstein promised all current employees would be considered for employment by Sympaticare Health, but did not confirm that all employees would keep their jobs.

Similarly, LDC President Susan Sherwood explained an increase in the number of beds and hours could mean more opportunities for current employees, but stopped short of discussing specific steps to retain current hospital and nursing home workers. The hospital and nursing care center currently contain a combined total of 378 beds.

Braunstein was not specific on major changes to the facilities or the way business is conducted, but did state the current benefit structure was “untenable” and needed to be reworked. Other changes to the facility, such as technology updates and expansions to accommodate more residents, were not discussed in detail, though Braunstein said he intended to “modernize” the hospital’s operations.

Braunstein’s family operates several nursing homes around the metro area. When given the podium, he said, “As a Rockland resident, I am honored to lead Summit Park into the future.”

Though the deal was approved unanimously by the LDC, there are still a few steps to take before finalization. A Certificate of Need (CON) has been obtained by the purchaser for the nursing care center, while another is currently being pursued for the hospital. Once both CONs, approvals for Medicare and Medicaid provider number transfers and zoning approvals are obtained, the closing can move forward.

Aside from permits and approvals, the last major obstacles to the sale are two separate lawsuits filed to prevent the sale. Attorney Shawn Griffin stated that though litigation was ongoing, it is not anticipated that they will slow or curb the sale of the facilities.