Friday, March 22, 2013

Don't Mess With Nazareth

Last night, Northampton County Council voted for the second time in five months to reject a proposal that would have transferred nonemergency ambulance services for Gracedale from Nazareth Ambulance to Lifestar. By a 6-3 vote, Council dismissed a bid from Lifestar that was $86,556 cheaper than Nazareth's proposal. Only John Cusick, Scott Parsons and Bob Werner would have gone with the low bid.

The other six Council members went against the administration, Gracedale's management, the Gracedale Advisory Board and even the so-called Coalition of Alzheimer Families, whom I prefer to call the Gracedale Goons.

What I found interesting is that Nazareth Ambulance employees came and spoke, as they did a few months ago. I was particularly impressed by Lois Sutliff, who explained that they know the residents and can often tell when something is wrong, even when the nurses don't see it. "We might be a small company, but we know those patients," she said in a breaking voice. "We care about those patients."

Numerous Lifestar employees were on hand, too, but not one of them spoke. They did not come to the meeting in their own cars, but drove about a dozen Lifestar ambulances. Their attendance was obviously orchestrated, and I suspect they were probably compensated for their time.

Peg Ferraro, who spoke forcefully against the bid, was obviously concerned about her voting base in Nazareth. She denied that, stating she would have the same concerns anywhere else. Even Portland. But then she called out to County Council candidates in the audience, noting that these are the kinds of tough decisions that have to be made. This year's election was obviously very much on her mind, no matter how much she protested to the contrary.

Much more persuasive was Ken Kraft. His Bethlehem District includes 100 Lifestar employees, so it would be politically expedient for him to go with them. But he noted that he ran for office on a platform of bringing jobs to the County, and this would have the opposite effect. "I would be closing a company by going with a bid I consider low ball," he reasoned. He noted his decision would not put Lifestar out of business.

The most persuasive, at least to me, was the usually quiet Barb Thierry. Disgusted with politics, she's leaving at the end of the year. She's a conservative Republican, so I expected her to go with the low ball. But she went the other way, and this is what she said.
"I understand Lifestar delivers the best bang for the buck. But what about three years from now, when Lifestar has no competitors and it is free to charge what it wants? What about the personal relationships that have been fostered by members of Nazareth Ambulance and residents of Gracedale? How can we sever those tie without affecting the quality of service to residents?

"I voted to sell Gracedale because I felt that was the only way to ensure the best quality of care to residents in the long run. That same concern prompts me to vote against Lifestar."
I think it's important to note that, as cost-savings measures go into effect at Gracedale and $2.5 million in worker benefits have been returned to County coffers, it is apparent that the quality of care has suffered. The latest Medicare ratings give the nursing home just two stars, which is "below average" and far below the four stars at Cedarbrook.

In the face of this reality, Councilman Bob Werner ticked off a list of items that he claims makes Gracedale better. Funny how that never translated to better ratings. Human Service Director Ross Marcus claims that the two stars is a "good thing," a result of "better reporting."

Ask Tom Muller in Lehigh County if he would call two stars at Cedarbrook a good thing.

I do agree that this vote was a very tough call, and I know it exasperated Ross Marcus, who later snarked Council about not listening to their own nursing home administrator.

But aside from all the merits of both companies, I'd add this - you just don't mess with Nazareth. Cross them and they'll bombard you with Moravian Sugar Cakes and hit you with red roses. Their residents are extremely nasty, which is mostly the result of eating copious amounts of red meat. Had the vote gone the other way, Borough Council was ready to confiscate all County TVs.

61 comments:

Mark Baker said...

Gracemess continues to be nothing but a political football for council and other slimey so caller associations.

It should have been dumped. It will continue to be a bone of contention when more important matters get no attention at all.

Anonymous said...

Proof that Gracedale will continue to be a money pit sink hole. Proof that Council, except for 3 members , can`t make the right decision.

Anonymous said...

This was very confusing. If the preservation of Gracedale is paramount, why did the vote go the way it did? As a supporter of Gracedale, I believe this was an FU vote by the Republican lameducks hoping to be vindicated by helping Gracedale fail.

Ken Kraft, as usual made no sense and I am wondering exactly how smart this guy is. He talks alot but says nothing.

Peg Ferraro has run her course and her constant trying to sit on the fence and please everyone for votes is getting tiresome and just poor leadrership. Time for her to go.

Credit ot Parsons, Werner and even Cusick. They put there vote on trying to help Gracedale and not playing politics.

Anonymous said...

Cusick for County Executive.

Anonymous said...

Finally Ken Kraft is called out!! Nazareth EMS has been a staple in that neck of the woods for decades. Lifestar's so called bid was an undercutting of immense proportion. No way that they could provide a bang for the buck service. The residents of Gracedale would have paid for it by eventual slow and not top line care. What people don't know is that Nazareth has an Emergency 911 component to their service. They are a primary dispatch service for not just Nazareth but Bushkill, Upper Nazareth and other communities. They are able to attract better volunteers and paid staff because 911 calls are part of their service. EMT's like reall 911 calls. That's what they are trained to do. Someone should ask Lifestar whether they are a primary 911 service? What municipalities do they serve when 911 is called? Someone should ask where their employees are coming from as well as where they used to work and why they are no longer there? Northampton County did the right thing. You get what you pay for and Nazareth is obviously the best choice at the lowest price. Kraft obviously has no clue along with Cusik and Parsons. Thankfully there were 6 others that do have a clue.

Anonymous said...

Kraft voted for Nazareth ambulance and your whole argument you just wrote was HIS argument last night. Where u even there?

Anonymous said...

6:31. Didnt you mean Werner is finally called out?

Anonymous said...

Ken Kraft did not help his union friends by voting for Nazareth Ambulance. Gracedale is trying to cut costs to keep the facility in County hands. He and the five others who voted for Nazareth Ambulance did those 500 union workers and the taxpayers of Northampton County a diservice.The contract should have been awarded to the low bidder. If and when they don't hold up their end of the bargain they can be removed. I always try to get three estimates for work done on my home and I look at experience, quality, and price. I found that quality is number 1, experience is number 2, and price is number three. I also found out that the low bidder has informed me that he will no longer bid on any of my renovation jobs because he wasn't awarded a contract that he was low bid on. That's the risk the County takes by not awarding the low bidder the contract. On the Federal Level this ambulance contract would be called a "pork Barrel" contract. County council took care of Nazareth Ambulance at the expense of the rest of the taxpayers in the County (as well as the taxpayers in Nazareth). Shame on Council.

Anonymous said...

Lifestar is a solid company with an outstanding reputation. The disgusting incestuousness that results in overspending by 38% is outrageous. Trailer Queen, pension-slopping Ferraro is the most irresponsible of the pile. What a stain on area politics. She's disgusting.

Anonymous said...

It i not just a low bid, it is a subsidized bid by a corporation hell bent on putting all other ambulance companies out of business. There is no way they are making a penny on this contract and there would be no competition for 3 bids when all others are closed. This is not a construction job for your new shit room this is big business, subsidized by deep pockets attempting to get rid if the little guy and all the family sustaining jobs that go with it. But I guess in our world $9.00 an our for an EMT is reasonable, heck he might be able to pay off his student loans 30 years from now at that rate of pay.

Anonymous said...

Why does Cusick throw the onus onto Stoffa? Why is this now Stoffa's job to find common ground? Why isn't it Cusick's and the rest of Council's job to hammer this out?

Anonymous said...

Scott Parsons gets it! This was for transport services..not emergency responses! DUH! If I'm a Gracedale employee today..I'm freakin' livid. The lame ducks fire one last shot at their boss..disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Bernie..why no video of the county council meeting last night? What gives?

Anonymous said...

A Council that is soft and can`t make the hard decisions. Low bidders beware. Now we know you can`t deliver. High bidders welcome to porl barrell USA

Anonymous said...

This better not turn into a lawsuit against the county. What a bunch of dopes. How can supposedly conservative R's vote like that? Gilbert and Thierry and Dietrich are just plain ignorant or they truly want Gracedale to tank under the weight of more debt. Peg has turned into a shill..

Anonymous said...

Bernie..what did Mr. Gracedale himself..McGoo ..have to say? A plague on all of them for their stupidity.

Anonymous said...

to anymous 7:09
welcome to Amercia. This is the capitalists way.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely insane. Wasn't County Council reqired to take the "lowest qualified bid?"

Peg Ferraro should be voted out for her incompetence!!!!

Anonymous said...

Peg Ferraro is a singular money wasting cancer. The shit houses at Nazareth Boro Park should all bear her name. Because we all know that money wasting trough sloppers get things named after them in this county. Disgusting. Overpaying for transport - NOT EMS - by 38% shows outright hatred of taxpayers who are trying to keep their homes. With irresponsible mathletes like Ferraro teaching, it's easy to understand why such a high percentage of public school graduates are blithering illiterates. I'll bet she can't balance her own checkbook or pay the taxes on that scummy trailer. And we put her charge of important things. Good God.

c said...

Barbara Thierry will be able to retire from council with her head held high. She is an honorable person.

Anonymous said...

Funny watching the goons argue here!

Maybe they need to return to the mother ship and get their marching orders from the Right Fake Reverend Mario Martinez before they sign on here at 3am and start up.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer/small business person I agree with the vote. If you haven't had years running a successful business I don't suppose you would get it. Maybe we should be glad you naysayers aren't in politics spending our money. There are times you spend a dollar to make a dollar. At worse it keeps the ebb and flow going. What sense does it make to not be aware of the fact that when all of the small stores are pushed out the competition is gone. I'd like to be in that position. That is true capitalist and not wrong. What is wrong is to know this and do nothing about it. There are plenty of places the management of GD can cut and yes even get givebacks from a union who is way overpaid to begin with. Everyone now gets to keep their job also. The extra money for Nazareth is an investment in our community as well as insurance that we will have competition. It's not just business sense it is common sense. Kraft kept jobs and that is his job. All members voting yes understood the necessity of their vote. I get 3 bids always and many times take the middle one. I've seen low ball bidders throw in the towel. guess you just can't make everyone happy. Peg may try that but the others all believed in what they did and the reasons why......The woman on council pretty much covered it all. GD manage. did their job. Shaving their budget and securing their jobs. Fine but it is council's job to look at the whole picture. GD doesn't survive without a health working county.

Anonymous said...

Bird brain Kraft wondered what will happen in three years? Here's a lesson, Ken. Listen carefully and get an adult to explain it to you slowly with small words:

In three years we will have overspent by a quarter million dollars on this contract. What an idiot. There should be IQ testing for these dummies. Are they all even literate?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Ken Kraft did not help his union friends by voting for Nazareth Ambulance. Gracedale is trying to cut costs to keep the facility in County hands. He and the five others who voted for Nazareth Ambulance did those 500 union workers and the taxpayers of Northampton County a diservice."

I believe Kraft's vote was the best thing the union could have asked for, if they are interested in the residents and not just themselves. After $2.5 MM in givebacks, the Q/C has diminished and I suspect that has something to do with ratings going from 3 to 2 stars. Workers are retiring and I rec'd an email from someone whose wife quit bc she can no longer handle it. It could very well be that the hme would operate more efficiently if some of those givebacks were returned.

Instead, it appears that more relationships are being severed as the management looks for ways to reduce costs by going with a bigger company that will squeeze nazareth out of business. After that happens, and no one can compete, the rates will go back up and the residents will have been ill served.

It is a close call, and i do understand the vote to go with the bottom line, but think it would be a mistake here.

Anonymous said...

Really disappointed in County Council and especially Peg. Now that her own daughter works for the County in an accounting job, she should know better.

She knows there are efficiencies that could be brought to Gracedale, but she stays on the safe side of the unions.

I think she's petrified, doesnt know what the hell to do, and is bitterly pissed that the blonde in sky high heels is going to destroy her in the primary.

She just treated an $87,000 gift like chump change. I can guarantee that every single taxpayer in NORCO , if oferred an $87,000 lifeline would grab it in a minute.

I can wait to see some fresh faces next year. Peg is wrinkled and seems to be limping lately.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The comment above is so disgusting that i can only imagine one person who posted it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The Goons have done an about face. After supporting Lifestar at the Gracedale Advisory Board, they've suddenly switched.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"hat did Mr. Gracedale himself..McGoo ..have to say?"

Nothing. He sat there looking like he was undergoing root canal.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie..why no video of the county council meeting last night? What gives?"

Nothing. The video is usually not up until about 2 or 3 days after the meeting.

Anonymous said...

just so sad that Wrner, Parsons and Cusik were the only ones who are looking at the larger picture.

In 2014, when Obamacare hits this country like a taxation cyclone, directing tax dollars to insure the young and healthy, while ripping funds from the sick and elderly, the medicare and medicade reimbursements rates will plunge.

When they do, I think Gracedale will be averaging a $10,000,000 loss per year.

Whose going to pay for that? Every dollar counts, and the bigger decisions are unfortunately just around the corner.

I predict either a mass taxhike for the taxpayers of Norco, or a mass downsize of Gracedale. A mixture of both?

Or AFSCME is forced into a mass giveback. We need manpower on council to keep the heat off the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the live feed video? Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

Stupid vote geared towards votes, not Gracedale. Non emeRgency care transport. This was a no brainer.

Where were these impassioned cries when the employees took dramatic cutbacks? For the sake of a few votes they may or may not get, you turned your noses up at nearly a $100K savings because they "might" raise it in the future. Might??

Yet this same council votes to have a devleoper build them a shell bulding with an increse in the lease every year that is higher then the increase the county gets form the state.
Hats off to Parsons and Werner, at least two choices made sense.

Save Gracedale as long as the only sacrifices are to the employees making $25k a year.

I know why you agree with this vote Bernie. It is another nail in the Gracedale coffin and that is what you want.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

Don't impersonate people.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding photo! The content's the thing. But the photos/graphics really add to the quality here. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Lifestar can and should sue. They'll win, too, or at least get the award thrown out for a rebid that will further shave the price. Government agencies that waste contractors time are really shitty. Proposals cost time and money to create and present. These bozos never intended an honest competitive bid. What a dishonorable bunch. If you have friends on the inside, you have permission to rape taxpayers. 38% is a lot. I propose we cut their compensation by 38% since it's no biggie. Thierry is just a spineless running coward. Go back to being useless, Barb. What a nitwit.

Anonymous said...

Sue, for what? It was an RFP not a sealed bid, they have no grounds to sue anybody.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer, and not living in the Nazareth Borough I am disappointed and disgusted that NON EMERGENCY Ambulance service for transports is not going to the lowest bidder period. $86K is alot of money and its not my responsibility to subsidize any area ambulance service daily business operation. I HOPE that someone sues and the lowest bidder is chosen by a judge as its OUR TAX MONEY PEOPLE not "Nazareth or any single ambulance service entity- ITS PART MY MONEY and I WANT THE LOWEST BIDDER!

Anonymous said...

I just won a contract to mop the linoleum in Peg's questionably legal trailer. She's going to pay me $80,000. The girl is very sharp.

Anonymous said...

The only way Barbara Thierry could do anything is if someone else told her so. She is an embarrassment to county government and her own party. She always looks confused and rarely knows the issues. Maybe with all her time off from council she can go take a political science course and educate herself.

Lighthouse said...

I understand the concern about low bids driving out smaller entities, and once successful with no competition they may be free to demand higher prices. That is one rationale for my opposition for muncipalities moving away from private to monopolized municipal garbage contracts.

However, this (transport)is a service already under government contract. The voters of NorCo (myself included) voted to keep Gracedale County owned. With that comes a fiduciary responsibility to operate it as fiscally responsible as possible without compromising quality of care. This vote was not about helping to save Gracedale, but redistributing Gracedale resources to subsidize Nazareth Ambulance. If Northampton County voters want to do that, then put that up for referendum, otherwise run Gracedale in a responsible way to keep it County owned.

Since, from his own flier, it was "Lamont's plan to hire a private manager .. to deliver high quality services cost effectively" McClure looks hypocritical voting against "his" private manager in a cost inefficiency.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, I'll disagree that it was a vote to subsidize Nazareth, although that IS what is happening. It is a vote to ensure that quality of care does not suffer. It is against a very obvious low ball estimate. Lifestar would likely lose money on this contract, but once it drives Nazareth out of business, it will be free to charge what it wants. Because it is so much larger, and its employees serve so many contracts, it is unlikely their staff will develop the same personal relationships.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The only way Barbara Thierry could do anything is if someone else told her so. She is an embarrassment to county government and her own party."

and you can't sign your name. What an embarrassment you are.

Anonymous said...

Looked to me like all of the council members knew the issue and had real feelings about it. As far as Ms Thierry she votes right and doesn't bloviate. Good for her. I think her most negative commenter is a close relative who should not criticize anyone with their own history. If it keeps it Up he/she will not like the further exposure of who he/she is. Won't do this person any favors for sure. The perverbial pot calling the kettel black. Typical.....

Lighthouse said...

A larger issue of your concern is something that the greater Lehigh Valley will eventually have to address. EMS is expensive. None but the largest municipalities have the resources to fully fund, and have thusfar been able to rely on their dedicated volunteer corps. But many of these "volunteer" corps still have to have paid staff due to the expertise necessary for true EMS (as opposed to mere transport), and yet run in the black. Thus, they are forced to drum up business where they can. Transporting Gracedale patients is a steady revenue stream. One could look at Bethlehem Township. They have ambulances well beyond Township borders, sometimes even housed in other municipalities.

Long story short: for townships and boroughs, fully funding EMS and the related Fire Co services would be budget busters. Eventually, as the Lehigh Valley becomes more suburbanized, either regionalization of resources or sharply increased taxes are going to become the painful choice of communities used to have their own "local" services.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That was discussed on Thursday night, and you are right. Many volunteer ambulance companies have gone the way of the do do. Gracedale's administrator himself was talking about his own experience as a member of a volunteer ambulance corps.

Anonymous said...

You are singing the Ken Kraft song. Yet it is hypocritical. You could make that argument about any low bid. Thses people voted poorly and don't underrtsand that the big picture is saving Grtacedale not the world.

All this vote accomplished was to kick the issue of effeciency down the road.

If all the "if's" in their arguments were dollars, they could have paid all of Gracedales bills.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The big picture is not just savings Gracedale. The big picture is saving Gracedale without letting the quality of care diminish, as is apparently happening.

With that in mind, Lifestar was able to put in a bid that was $86k per year less than that of Nazareth. And the manager acknowledged that Lifestar was able to do that by eliminating drivers on its ambulance, i.e. reducing care. On top of that, I doubt that tere would be the same personal relationships with Lifestar than residents have with Nazareth.

Lifestar provided a low ball bid, and was willing to lose money, because its primary goal hre is to eliminate the competition. After that happens, rates would skyrcket.

This was the point made both by Ken Kraft, a Democrat, and Barb Thierry, a Republican.

I respect the argument for going with the low bid, but think Council made the right call. I understand Lifestar s threatening to sue even though Council made its intentions clear a few months ago. That tells me all I need to know about Lifestar.

Anonymous said...

Then why even ask for a bid? Why even request RFP's? Just ask Nazareth EMS to send us any bill they feel is fair. Hell, I hope local merchants come in demanding to sell the county food and fuel or they will go out of business. Why not?

This is horseshit and claiming that a non emergency transport is somehow diminishing care is even bigger horseshit. Hell, just a few months ago you claimed the residents of Gracedale would live in a wonderful world if a private multi-national company bought them out. If pateint care is so important why isn;t the adminstration filling vacancies rather than let them sit open? To many lies to even keep track of anymore.

Sorry, this is just more of the settinmg up Gracedale to fail game stha you Stoffaa anmd Angle played before. Sadly, we still have some county council people dumb enough to play along.

The county needs help and it can't come soon enough.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Statistically, nursing home residents in privatized homes have done better than when they were publicly held. I have just linked to a news account reporting that fact. I believed that Gracedale should be sold for that reason.

As for the "setting up gracedale to fail" conspiracy theory, it depends on what you mean by fail.

Voters stated they wanted Gracedale to remain in public hands. Stoffa has done his best to make that happen, while simultaneously trying to reduce the County contribution. If Gracedale starts turning a profit, but its quality of care is abysmal, is that success?

Keeping Nazareth ambulance, whose employees know and care about the residents will assure a continued quality of care. If quality of care goes up, but Gracedale is not profitable, is that failure?

What motivates people of good will on both sides of this question is what is best for the residents. Not the unions, Not the bottom line. Not politicians.

Overall, I would say Premier has made good progress in enhancing the fiscal health of Gacedale. But is the quality of care suffering? They say No. marcus says no. I would like to think No. But that is what motivates those of us who really care.

Anonymous said...

I'm not aware of what goes into the ranking of the facility but I would think that ambulance service quality is not a ratable attached to Gracedale itself. That is an exterior entity and not measurable in comparison to facility ratables. I could be wrong..

Anonymous said...

Is a copy of the ranking and the criteria used to determine that number be obtained..is it public information? Can it be viewed to determine where the deficiences are?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are correct. My answer was not a bureaucratic answer, but one intended to depict the reality. Resident care is a measurement of many things, including transport. The stars rating has nothing to do with transportation, as you correctly observe.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I linked to it on my previous post about Gracedale. Give me a break. it is Saturday night.

Anonymous said...

Sorry..I missed that link. Will chase it down.

Anonymous said...

Defend your crushed by twisting this stupid vote. All your excuses are horseshit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Time for your drug cocktail.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is the comment above enough to make you dizzy????? I sure don't get it. Is this a politician?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You must know it is a spam comment. I get hundreds every day, but most are caught by the spam filter. If i get enough complaints, I'll enable some kind of word verification to stop the spam.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bernie. I am a rookie with computers and always will be.

Anonymous said...

Dude, it hurts to look at that picture. No actors, there. That guy on the stretcher looks seriously messed up.