BY JANIE ROSMAN
Halloween was no trick-or-treat for Sympaticare Health Care when its agreement to purchase the county’s financially-strapped Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center officially collapsed at midnight.
The contract signed by both parties on July 16, 2014 — Sympaticare would lease Summit Park for 99 years upon approval by the Public Health and Health Planning Council — gave Braunstein more than 14 months (and with a built-in cure date of October 31, 2015) to ready the facility, patients and residents for safe transfer.
Yet Sympaticare CEO Shalom Braunstein told the County Legislature on September 16, “We do not think it [Summit Park] would be safe to transfer onOctober 1,” then walked away from the deal one day before its September 30 deadline.
Two days later, on October 1, Rockland County Executive Ed Day announced the facility would close by year’s end.
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The legislature voted unanimously on two resolutions in October asking the county and Sympaticare to return to the discussion table. Sympaticare sent an amended agreement to the County and LDC to execute the transaction by year’s end, “and we were prepared to move ahead with the sale but didn’t hear back for weeks.”
Braunstein said when he finally met with the LDC on October 23 he offered an all-cash purchase of the facility by October 31 in return for the county withdrawing its closure decision “but our offer was rejected without an explanation,” he said.
The board felt Sympaticare couldn’t address operational issues that were still the county’s responsibility and said Sympaticare demanded Day withdraw his closure request from the DOH as a precondition to seeking DOH approval for taking over the facility.
However, the Rockland County Health Facilities Corporation (LDC) board — created to broker the purchase and sale agreement — felt, Why did Sympaticare need more time? “It hasn’t given us anything specific to think that things will be doable in December that weren’t doable in September,” RCHFC President Susan Sherwood said.
Reiterating that its mission “focuses on balancing the county’s fiscal concerns with quality of care,” the LDC board felt “the consistent failure of the buyer to provide evidence of its timely to obtain DOH approval for the operation of the Facility jeopardizes the quality of care of the residents of Summit Park.”
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“There’s a process for transferring patients,” Deputy Commissioner of Hospitals David Freed told the Rockland County Times Monday. “We’re working closely with the Department of Health to place people in places of their choice with consideration to where their families live and working with the social workers who know them to find the best arrangements for them.”
Prior to the state DOH approving the county’s closure plans, families arranged with the facility to relocate their loved ones to different facilities. County Executive Ed Day announced its October 22 approval that day via statement.
“In accordance with these plans, Summit Park management will immediately begin notifying all relevant constituencies and working with our residents and their families to transition them to the most appropriate and qualified care setting for each individual,” Day said. “We are committed to doing all we can to ensure that these life transitions go smoothly for all involved, and that the health and safety of our residents remain our number one priority.”
As of Tuesday, 89 residents are waiting placement in other facilities. The county plans to sell the Sain Building in New City and move workers to the Pomona complex.
CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo, who worked at Summit Park for 43 years, told the Rockland County Times employees working there don’t know if they’ll have a job or not. Residents don’t know if they’ll be placed in the same new facility as their friends.
“The stress is like you’ve never seen,” Riccaldo said. “Some employees are talking with Sympaticare and are afraid to leave until the end of the year because they don’t want to lose their medical benefits.”
“The county is putting people in different places, and we don’t know where they are right now,” Riccaldo said. “The sad part is there are still people who want to buy it.” He estimates it will cost the county between $6 – 8 million to close.
Residents and family members with questions are asked to call Summit Park Administration at 845-364-2700.