Early in Executive Lamont McClure's administration, Gracedale's rating was at three stars. That rating, prepared by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMM), means that the home was "average." While this is hardly any reason to boast, it was a significant step up from the one-star (much below average) the home had in 2017 under former Executive John Brown. McClure vowed that he would seek to get that five-star (much above average) star. Instead, he's gone in the opposite direction. The most recent CMM rating at Gracedale is back to just one star. Its staffing and quality of resident care are both at just one star as well.
No one mentioned this drop at yesterday's monthly review of Gracedale by Northampton County Council. But it's clear that Council members are upset with the never-ending complaints, and they wasted little time letting it be known they are frustrated. .
Council member John Cusick noted the home is poised to lose money this year, and stated that staffing is its biggest issue.
Cusick complained that Gracedale provides only 2.61 nursing hours per resident per day. "That's not just a number, that's people who are not getting enough care." McClure had earlier taken a shot at for-profit nursing homes, but Cusick observed that the care provided at those places actually exceed Gracedale. "Gracedale sits at the lowest nursing home hours per resident per day in the Lehigh Valley."
Cusick asked Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King if the home can continue to admit new residents, given the obvious poor quality of care. Stewart-King mentioned that the census at Gracedale right now is 487. This is well below the 688-bed capacity and about 100 fewer residents than in July.
Stewart-King noted that other homes have allowed their census to drop so they can keep a higher nursing care to patient ratio. She hinted that Gracedale is following suit, something Executive McClure hinted at a few months ago.
The problem with allowing census to drop is that revenue drops with it.
Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner, who previously stated several times that she wanted to hear the good things about Gracedale, has begun questioning Gracedale's administration. She blasted a presentation made by Gracedale Administrators in October, which heaped praise on McClure while referring to Stewart-King and Director of Nursing Dawn Marie TuersFeldman as the "dynamic duo," complete with superhero outfit.
Vargo Heffner called the "dynamic duo" presentation "insulting to me."
Vargo-Heffner told the dynamic duo that Council has voted for every position sought and every request made over the past four years. She said employees "are stressed and taxed and complaining all the time." She added that problem exists throughout the health care industry, but it's time for some "hard conversations" about what is needed to make Gracedale successful. "I get calls all the time from people about how they're spoken to, how they're stressed, about the overtime, we got $2 million going to nursing agencies. Should we be bringing some of that back in salaries?"
Council member Kerry Myers put it succinctly: "Benefits don't pay bills."
He said Gracedale workers need more money.
McClure touted a contract extension with the RNs and social workers that will give them a step (4.5%) one year followed by two or 2.5% the second.
This increase is actually below inflation.