The County Executive’s Corner: Summit Park Update

BY ROCKLAND COUNTY EXECUTIVE ED DAY

As conveyed during my State of the County message earlier this month, the eventual sale of Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center remains a critical element in the County’s economic turnaround.

With lower reimbursement rates and increasing costs, the facility continues to lose money, with its future operating deficit expected to grow.

Our situation in Rockland County is not unique. Financially strapped and facing a radically shifting health care environment, other county-owned hospitals in New York have sought a white knight and been acquired.  Sale or consolidation have become the new normal. Of the state’s 226 hospitals, almost 70-percent are now part of a multi-hospital system, according to the Department of Health in Albany. This trend will continue and even accelerate, due in no small part to the Affordable Care Act.

Several factors are fueling the move of government-owned health care facilities toward privately-owned status. Not hamstrung by the RFP process, private health care operators apply conservative, cost-effective strategies to the task of running a hospital or nursing home, thereby increasing efficiency and profitability.  Further, corporate institutions have greater access to private capital with which to expand and update their facilities.

In 2013, the Rockland County Legislature and the previous administration created and authorized a transfer of the assets of the hospital and nursing home to the Rockland County Health Facilities Corporation, which is the legal name of our LDC. A contract was made last July for the sale of Summit Park. This contract remains in effect today and is guiding the buyer and the LDC toward closing.

At present, the company that will operate the facility after the sale – Sympaticare, LLC. –  has presented its application for the necessary operating licenses to the State Health Department.

LDC Chairwoman Sue Sherwood, along with Deputy County Executive Guillermo Rosa, our County Attorney Tom Humbach, and our new Acting Commissioner of Hospitals, Dr. David Freed, have met with state DOH officials on several occasions. They continue to work tirelessly on achieving the goal of transferring ownership of the facility.

The LDC also continues to update the Legislature on the progress of the sale. It was a vote by the full Legislature which led to the creation of the LDC back in 2013, making the panel a key stakeholder in the transaction.

With the lawsuits attempting to block the transaction now successfully defeated, the last bar to sale is the receipt of those licenses.

We are hoping they are granted soon, so that the sale can close by the end of September 2015, as anticipated by the contract.

In the meantime, improved 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, increasing the census numbers. We minimized losses and cut waste, without cutting services.

With Dr. Freed at the helm, we continue to make a significant investment in quality on a day-to-day basis from the top down while minimizing operational losses.

It’s no secret that Rockland County remains the most fiscally stressed municipality in New York, as labeled by the state Comptroller’s Office. I will not allow the continuing losses of Summit Park to further weaken our condition.  By seeking a private owner, we’ve made the best decision possible toward continuing the financial recovery of the county, while maintaining viability of the hospital and nursing home, keeping them open and guaranteeing the continuum of quality care for patients and residents.