The County Executive’s Corner: Moving Toward A Brighter Future

Ed DayBy Rockland County Executive Ed Day 

As most of you know, Rockland County formed a Local Development Corporation (LDC) in 2013 for the purpose of selling Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center. Last week, the LDC board unanimously passed a resolution to enter into a Purchase Sale Agreement, which allows for the eventual transfer of the 321-bed nursing home and 57-bed hospital facility to a private health care operator. The $36 million bid of Summit Park Acquisition Group was chosen from four competitors that submitted proposals last fall.

The sale of Summit Park is indicative of significant problems and disparities within the broader national health care financing system. Sweeping changes are taking place both in how care is paid for, and also how care is delivered. In 2006, federal and state governments began to move funding from nursing homes to community-based agencies and home care options, resulting in a decline in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

As a result, hospitals and nursing care centers all across New York are in crisis. Here in Rockland, the taxpayers have provided millions of dollars each year in subsidies to Summit Park, which has become a drain on the County’s cash flow. With this imbalance expected to worsen in the coming years as managed care for Medicaid is fully implemented, the decision was made by the previous administration to put the facility on the market to help navigate the County beyond its serious fiscal challenges.

Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center first opened in 1976 and has served the people of this County with dedication and pride. Many of those who work at the complex have served our families and neighbors for decades. Regrettably, the facility has become a concrete illustration of how the health care landscape is changing under reform. Please know the move to privatize Summit Park does not reflect poorly on the hospital and nursing home staff or the quality of care offered to patients. Despite months of uncertainty, these dedicated health professionals continue to provide an excellent level of care and support.

With the expected transfer of ownership in early 2015, Summit Park will be well-positioned to face the new realities of American healthcare. For those employees who continue with the purchaser, I believe each will grow more as a professional, with expanded opportunities in a well-funded company. I am confident the hospital will emerge stronger from this transaction.

The decision to sell Summit Park into private ownership is not a silver bullet. Our budget crisis will not be solved by this transaction alone. In fact, most of the $36 million earned on the deal will NOT go toward our $140 million deficit. The sale, however, will stop the bleeding, allowing the financial recovery of Rockland County to move forward.

A transition team – including unionized hospital staff – has been established to ensure patient, employee and community needs are met during the process. Under the terms of the agreement, Summit Park will remain a long-term acute care hospital and continue to provide the same level of health services to the community. We will work tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition.

As the Summit Park Acquisition Group works with our lawyers to finalize the purchase, please realize that operations at both the hospital and nursing home remain at full throttle. Inside the facility, it’s “business as usual,” with new patients arriving each week. We continue to make a significant investment in quality on a day-to-day basis from the top down. Rest assured that Rockland County residents will have access to high quality health care services and other specialized needs in the days and weeks ahead.

Our actions today signal a new beginning for Summit Park and will ensure that Rockland County moves optimistically towards the future.