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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, February 19, 2010

So What's Up With Gracedale?

About a week ago, I was sitting in Nazareth's Main Street Bistro for breakfast, swilling coffee and orange juice. Two pretty ladies, who had just come in from church, were seated near me, picking at one slice of toast. I couldn't help overhearing their conversation, but is soon became apparent that one of them works at Gracedale.

"So how are things at Gracedale?" asked one of the ladies, the way someone asks about a fatal illness.

"I don't really know," answered the other, in a sad voice. "They won't tell us anything. I just hope I don't lose my job."

Well, I don't think this lady has reason to fear. At Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting, I learned a few things about Gracedale. County Exec John Stoffa added a few salient details last night, during a meeting of County Council.

1) Consultant. - Four consultants will be asked to prepare requests for proposals to study Gracedale, and those should be reviewed sometime next month.

2) Deficit. - Although Gracedale was $6.29 million in the red last year, that's about $3 million less than was projected. Human Services Director Ross Marcus believes this is because the nursing home's staff have been aggressively pursuing Medicare reimbursements.

3) Marketing. - Marcus has suggested the County devote more energy to marketing Gracedale, and a private firm (I do not have the name) has volunteered its time to come up with a plan. Council Prez Ron Angle suggested renaming the facility to something like Happy Valley, and other Council members suggested adding babbling brooks.

4) Residency Requirement. - Council member Lamont McClure suggested the County abolish its residency requirement, but Stoffa has already done that.

5) Capacity. - According to Stoffa, "We have 725 beds. We're running about 650 patients, so there's another 75 patients we could take in. I have been told we can do that without hiring additional staff."

No decision to abolish Gracedale has been made, and the County's efforts appear to be directed at improving its efficiency. But even a supporter like Lamont McClure acknowledged that, if the nursing home sustains heavy losses year after year, it would be unfair to taxpayers to continue support.

The strongest arguments against Gracedale were made at last night's Council meeting by Forks Tp curmudgeon Ken Nagy. He notes that Gracedale is ranked by the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services as "below average," or two stars out of five. He's right, too. In contrast, Lehigh County's Cedarbrook has an "above average" rating, with four stars out of five. Of the thirty-eight nursing homes within a 25-mile radius of Nazareth, Gracedale is among one of eleven with "below average" or "much below average" ratings.

"Basically, what we're doing here is paying a Cadillac price for a Yugo."

Nagy notes that of the 50 counties who had nursing homes, only 34 remain. They are hampered by old buildings in constant need of repair, diminishing state and federal funds and increasing labor costs.


Anonymous said...

Gotta love The Bistro! Great food right in the heart of Main St.

lighthouse said...

I have a few comments that may come across contradictory at first.

1. the Gracedale deficit divided by 650 patients = $9,676, and divided by 725 beds = $8,675. Does a society have a moral obligation to pay that to care for those unable to?

2. that said, what does Cedarbrook do differently in management to be more efficient?

3. (also that said), government should meet the needs of those not being met by the private sector. For the government to need to acquire a marketing firm brings into question if the service is truly needed in the first place. Will this marketing be truly "volunteer" all the way through implementation, or just the "plan"?

4. which brings us back full circle, does society still have a moral obligation-despite the cost- to care for those who are among the most vulnerable: too old to work, and exhausted of personal funds?

If, as a society, we feel it an obligation to pay such amount of money (regardless if we have kids)to educate our children at the beginning of their lives, do we not have a similar obligation to care for seniors unable to care for themselves? Yet, at what point do we reach our breaking point between local, state, and national taxes?

More questions than answers, I know.

Anonymous said...

Lehigh County has a private management firm. The County owns the Home but the firm manages it. That was a direction the past Northampton administration was moving in. It had a top consultant firm working out of Gracedale and much to the chagrin of the existing Gracedale bureaucrats the firm helped find new ways to generate revenue and cut cost. That pissed off the bosses out there.

What happened was when Stoffa came in he threw out the consultants and refused to even consider the study that was done to show how more efficiency could be found. It is sad that because Stoffa wants to be the decider and refuses to concede any positive movement by the past Administration, he is forcing taxpayers to pay for a study and suggestions that already exist.

Want to save a shit load of money. One, Nagy is just a pissed no-government guy and Gracedale is in fact needed. Second, hire a private management firm with clear parameters and expectations and tell the existing management to suck it up or leave. Enough with their self-serving bullshit.

Of course this was the plan before John took office so everything had to go including the good plans and more money must be spent.

This is neither a negative slam on Stoffa or a political agenda just some facts to add to the discussion. Lets stop reinventing the wheel and making the taxpayers pay just because a good idea belongs to a different Administration.

Anonymous said...

get rid of this rusty old bucket of bolts

Anonymous said...


Are these government types off their pension-padded rockers?


The mindset of these arrogant morons is stunning to observe. Any bureaucratic boondoggle that requires marketing should never have existed. Wayne Grube still haunts taxpayers from his grave. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they spent the money they plan to use to hire a marketing company on better care, and bumped their rating, they would not need to hire a marketing firm.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A company is donating its services to devise a marketing plan. Frankly, I think it's a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Wow look, the tax payers have to pay for yet another consultant. This is ridiculous can't anyone in a position of power make a decision?

Every time there is a decision to be made they have to hire a consultant to get an answer.

Bernie can us taxpayers get the amount of money they have spent on consultants during the past 4 years or so?

Anonymous said...

Government operations should not exist if they must be marketed - for free or otherwise. It's not the cost. It's the concept, which is ridiculous. No wonder we're in such a mess.

Anonymous said...

Well, if they are donating the service then I say great idea, but I still come back to their below average rating. Unless they make changes there, what could possibly be the marketing strategy? I can't wait to hear that slogan!

Anonymous said...

Was the residency requirements lifted, since we have members of high government who have family members who don't live in Northampton County? Is this to expand some-type of 'secret' political benefits package for their families?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Gracedale - Your Last Stop."

"Remember Herbert Hoover? Gracedale."

"Short attention span? Need that bed pan? Gracedale."

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:28, The residency requirement was lifted so that more people can stay there.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm a little surprised to see the marketing idea get bed-panned. If we have more residents, the burden on taxpayers is diminished. But it seems there is sme philosophical objection to it.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you going to end up at Gracedale one day?

Anonymous said...

Gracedale is a "gem" for Northampton County. It has provided a safety net for OUR seniors that have no where else to go when they and their families can no longer care for them. Many of these Seniors WERE Northampton County Taxpayers for decades and a lot longer than carpetbagging McClure. I find it amazing how McClure and some want to turn their backs on the very same people who made this County. Concerning the rating of the home, maybe Stoffa and Marcus should be taken to task on this one. Are they not the people in charge? Can they not effect change to at least bring the home to a level that equals Cedarbrook? As someone who has no family in Gracedale and knows no one who works there but has paid County taxes for decades, it is clear that Gracedale needs investment and needs to be nurtured. Instead of spending money on so called treatment centers for criminals, put that money into the facility that cares for those who, by no choice of theirs, CAN'T.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm no McClure fan, but in fairness, need to point out he is a Gracedale supporter. He does not mind payig for it. But even he stated last night that there is a point where it becomes unfair to ask taxpayers to assume that buirden. There are 38 nursing homes in a 25-mile radius of Nazareth, the geographical center of the county. Why would I stay at Gracedale if I can arrange for medicare & Medicaid to pay fror my stay at a better facility? And the trend now is for people to stay in their own homes.

PippySqueek said...

"2) Deficit. - Although Gracedale was $6.29 million in the red last year, that's about $3 million less than was projected. Human Services Director Ross Marcus believes this is because the nursing home's staff have been aggressively pursuing Medicare reimbursements."

Shouldn't Gracedale have been pursuing reimbursements aggressively sooner, like for years? Then maybe they would not have been in such trouble now.

Anonymous said...

"without hiring additional staff"

Sounds like they operated 'over-staffed' the whole time. Another statement of fact about that place's mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

All successful Ponzi Schemes have great marketing programs. I mean without properly duping the 300,000 residents out of hard earned tax dollars, how is the county going to support the Unions and the 700 residents?

Enron might have a marketing department working on the cheap right now.

Anonymous said...

If one home 10 miles away in a similarly sized county can operate efficiently, (Lehigh), what does that tell you? It tells me that it can be done and that the difference may be management.

As far as the question as to whether the county or government in general owes anything to anyone, I think a society owes assistance to those who genuinely need assistance whether it be public housing, or nursing care. The obligation extends to and must include prudent, cost-effective management.


Anonymous said...

Permission to Change Topic.

Only because you've written about Allentown's rental inspection laws and enforcement did you see this story from Tuesday?

"Firefighters were called to the scene around 10:30 p.m. Heavy fire on the third floor of 614 Walnut St. prevented them from attacking the flames from inside the structure, Fire Capt. Lee Laubach said. They doused the blaze from the exterior and had it under control in about three hours."

14 Residents Displaced by Fire
How many apts were there in this building to house 14 individuals?
When was this building last inspected by city officials?
Is the inspection report on file?
Were the utilities and safety issues such as smoke alarms?
up to code?
Is this property listed under
Lehigh County Assessment records?
Did the property owner have
a license to rent to seven adults and seven children?

Anonymous said...

what could possibly be the marketing strategy? I can't wait to hear that slogan!

8:16 AM

We suck, but we're FREE!

Anonymous said...

TO: Anonymous 9:47 AM...

According to LC Records it is only two story building with no basement. The owner is listed as living there also in one of the total of 14 rooms (6 bedrooms).

Seems like a hellva lot of people in a building with only 2,256 SqFt which would include the "office space" which list only 1 "living unit" above the office.

14 people and the city is getting $894 and school district getting $1,168 for educating 7 kids !!!

.. and you wonder why Allentown and the school district broke?

Check It Out yourself

Anonymous said...

640619696563 1

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:17 you made me laugh! Very blunt and to the point. Marcus is taking the bullet for Gracedale on this one. How can you care for 75 additional patients with no increase in staff? Do they think we are idiots? They are already paying millions of dollars a year out there on nursing pools and overtime supposedly because they are understaffed. Increasing their census will only disproportionately increase costs on OT and outside nursing services. They are experts on playing 3 card Monte out there.

Anonymous said...

To: 12:19

Thank you for your reply.
We've been told since earlier post that actually two buildings
were vacated to bring the number of displaced to a total of 14.
However, questions raised
as to code enforcement and licensing issues still remain.

Anonymous said...

Allentown's rental inspection laws
went into effect how many years ago? Since this particular building is four blocks from city hall, surely it was inspected.

Anonymous said...

Warning Thread HiJackers At Work!!!

Clearly Liberals(tax and regulate) posters trying to direct the topic away from Gracedale.