• Rich Klein

INFINITECARE WINS RIGHT TO MANAGE THE CARE CENTER AT SUNSET LAKE

Updated: Feb 12

(This story was updated at 11:35 pm)


The Sullivan County Legislature today selected InfiniteCare to take over the lease and management of The Care Center at Sunset Lake after an oral vote by legislators at a Special Meeting that resulted in seven first-place votes for the company - a Brooklyn-based operator of 18 nursing facilities in New York State and Florida.


The owner of Infinite Care is Sol Klein, The company's regional director of operations is Katie Earl Perez. New Paltz attorney Joseph Eriole is counsel for the company.


On Thursday afternoon, Klein issued the following statement through Eriole:


"InfiniteCare is really excited to have the opportunity to join Sullivan County's family in providing for its senior community. We're grateful to the LDC and the Legislature for their thorough vetting of all the applications. It's been very clear to us from the beginning that the care of the seniors and the retention of local jobs were their top priorities, and InfiniteCare only looks for opportunities where those things are true. InfiniteCare's vision is to strengthen entire communities by partnering with them. InfiniteCare prioritizes local values and stable, happy employees. When we get involved in a facility we view it as an investment, not a contract. InfiniteCare will start seeking the input of current staff and local stakeholders on exactly what kind of investment is necessary to not only continue, but improve, the quality of life of residents and employees at the Care Center. Residents of Sullivan County should be confident that InfiniteCare has the means and the desire to do right by this precious population."

The company owns two adult care facilities in Ulster County: Ten Broeck Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing (Lake Katrine) and Golden Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (Kingston).


The other two companies in contention were The Grand Healthcare System and VestraCare, which owns the Roscoe Rehabilitation & Nursing Center. (George Conklin III and Luis Alvarez were the only legislators to make VestraCare their top pick. Conklin disclosed that his mother is a resident at the Roscoe facility).


InfiniteCare will now enter into negotiations for the contract with the Sunset Lake Local Development Corporation, which selected the three companies and presented them to the Legislature last month. The other two companies in contention were The Grand Healthcare System and VestraCare.


Here's how each legislator voted:

Doherty

1) Infinite 2) Vestra 3) Grand


Rajz

1) Infinite 2)Vestra 3) Grand


Brooks

1)Infinite 2)Grand 3) Vestra


Salomone

1) Infinite 2)Vestra 3) Grand


Conklin

1) Vestra 2 ) Infinite 3) Grand


Alvarez

1)Vestra 2) Infinite 3) Grand


Perrello

1) Infinite 2) Grand 3) Vestra


Steingart

1) Infinite 2) Vestra 3) Grand


Sorenson

1) Infinite 2) Vestra 3) Grand

Earlier, the Legislature went into executive session "to discuss a contract with a potential vendor" - believed to be connected to the resolution on the agenda that would approve an entity to assume operational responsibility of The Care Center at Sunset Lake.


This happened five minutes after a Special Meeting of the Legislature's Executive Committee concluded, in which the nine-member body voted unanimously to "take no action" on a resolution to vote on and approve one of the three entities that had been selected by the Sunset Lake Local Development Corporation (LDC).


While The Grand had long enjoyed front-runner status since the process began last summer - and originally believed to be the favorite of Legislature Chair Rob Doherty - reports here and among community activists about that company's track record may have changed some votes. Sources also told The SullivanTimes that when legislators asked The Grand for some financial data, the principals did not get back to them with that information.


Legislators Mike Brooks and Joe Perrello selected The Grand as their #2 pick and all others made The Grand their last choice.


Some of the legislators have also made visits to facilities owned by each of the three companies in recent weeks but none have made public statements about their reactions.


In recent days, sources with knowledge of the companies said that Infinite Care had the strongest financials of the three entities.


“We acted as taxpayers, employees and residents of our Care Center expected us to act: in their best interests,” Doherty said in a news release issued by the County this afternoon. “We have achieved all three of my stated goals: improving the care, protecting the taxpayers and making sure our employees remain our employees. Nothing less will do, and I thank the LDC for being a partner in this important initiative.”


“It was a long, hard struggle to get to this point, but I truly believe we’re making the best decision we can,” said District 2 Legislator Nadia Rajsz, chair of the Legislature’s Health & Family Services Committee. “I want the employees of the Care Center and the residents of Sullivan County to know that this is just one step in the process, and I will continue to advocate for and safeguard their interests as we move forward. Our aim is to improve the Care Center, and I am intent on making sure that is exactly what we do.”


District 7 Legislator Perrello said:


“I visited two facilities of each potential operator, so that I could be confident in our own due diligence. “Infinite Care has a good working group of professionals who will ensure a family-oriented, top-performing Care Center. Their aggressively progressive approach should show a quick improvement in our nursing home, especially in offering new physical rehabilitation services.”


Today's vote closed out eight months of high tensions between a passionate and well-organized group of activists ( that included employees of The Care Center as well as loved ones of residents living at the facility) and Doherty. Their first victory was stopping the sale of the Care Center to any entity and forced the Legislature to only offer a lease/management contract. The group also prevailed in removing the Certified Home Health Agency component from the original resolution. And, in recent months, they were able to convince a majority of legislators that The Grand Healthcare System had a weak track record when it came to its quality of care at other upstate facilities.


One of those activists was Lou Setren, president of the Family Council of The Care Center at Sunset Lake. On Thursday, he said: "Suffice it to say, now that an operator has been selected, and one with a good reputation and track record, I am cautiously optimistic. I hope stakeholders will be added to the LDC for lease discussions." (Setren was the Democratic candidate who lost the District 5 Legislator race in November 2019 to Conklin, a Republican).


The vote today also shows that for all of Doherty's bluster, he does have the ability to back down from initial decisions when the public shows up and speaks out in big numbers. That was true when early on in his administration he tried to transfer the 911/EMS control to the Sheriff's Office. That resolution has not yet returned to any agenda. And it was certainly true with today's result.


Here's the January 21 video from the County's Executive Committee that includes a presentation by Infinite Care.


Meanwhile, at a meeting today of the Legislature's Health & Family Services Committee, Administrator Burt Kohn said six staff members and two residents had tested positive for Covid-19 in December. "Staffing continues to be a big challenge," Kohn said.


He also announced that the Care Center has hired a new director of nursing, Cynthia Hathaway, who replaces veteran Susan Southerton, who has retired.



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