Blogger's Note: This report is based on Northampton County videos. I skipped last night's meetings to watch DeSales defeat DelVal in an exciting basketball game. It's playoffs, and both Desales MBB and WBB will play in the 'ship on Saturday. In case you're wondering, my grandson did get in the game for the final 30 seconds. He looked very good standing on the court as the clock ran out.
Last night, Northampton County Council's Human Services Committee was supposed to conduct a meeting focused exclusively on Gracedale, the county-owned nursing home. The most recent state survey, released January 4, cites 11 deficiencies directly related to resident care. Medicare now lists the home as a two-star, or below average, nursing facility. This is in stark contrast to the five stars (much above average) assigned to Lehigh County's Cedarbrook. But as happened before, there was no detailed discussion for three reasons. First, Human Services followed a lengthy Tara Zrinski committee meeting on, of all things, industrial hemp. Second, Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski, who really likes to talk, spent 40 minutes talking about every department but Gracedale. Third, Human Services Chair Lori Vargo Heffner spent a good ten minutes stating she'd like to change these meetings on a different day and time. So only about 35 minutes was actually spent on Gracedale. What little was revealed is disturbing.
By the numbers, we know the following, based on the month of December:
- Gracedale's census was about 665.
- Over $200,000 was paid to outside agencies to provide nursing care.
- The number of bedsores was a net of 53. (They do not count residents who have them when they arrive).
- There were 119 reportable infections.
- There were 332 incident reports.
- There were 172 falls.
Interim Administrator Jennifer D. Stewart-King made the case for electronic health records. She noted they are in use at Cedarbrook. She added that they need to institute pain and wound committees as well. She said employees were ignored when they asked for these things. "[County Executive]. McClure was the only one who heard us," she said.
McClure's decision to remove Premier as an outside manager was challenged as well. Council member John Cusick noted that when Premier took over, the County was paying $6 million to fund the home. Premier turned a $6 million deficit into a $3.3 million operating surplus.
"I think that is a big plus," observed Cusick.
McClure responded that Premier exalted cost over care and ruined morale. "They were tasked to run the home so there would be no county contribution," he asserted.
McClure's decision was challenged by Council member Bob Werner as well. He asked whether the County had ever looked at the operational assessment done by Premier. Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski admitted she was unaware of it. He then asked McClure whether he performed an operational assessment before terminating Premier. McClure admitted he performed no operational assessment.
"How did you determine you were going to do a better job without a plan?" asked Werner.
McClure said his decision was based on interviews with county employees as well as the $500,000 Premier charged every year.
Though he neglected to mention it, McClure has been concerned that Premier's record at other public nursing homes has been the subject of bad surveys and complaints.
Council President Ron Heckman, who earlier said he's "all for hemp," concluded Gracedale needs more attention. He noted that in the past, there were bi-weekly meetings to provide oversight.
"We as a group have to think about the largest department in our county with the largest number of residents and the most employees," he said.
And then they ran out of time.