Bethlehem Press

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Health Department drops two strikes

Monday, July 8, 2019 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

At Northampton County Council’s brief July 3 meeting, Executive Lamont McClure reported the state Department of Health recently visited Gracedale twice in response to anonymous complaints about staffing levels. Both were dismissed as unsubstantiated. Although the source of these complaints is unknown, McClure said employees should refrain from discussing these issues in front of family members.

According to the Medicare and Medicaid rating of nursing homes, Gracedale’s staffing is “below average.” The amount of nursing care provided is below both the state and national averages. For the past few years, Administrators have been doing their best to recruit more nurses, and even have programs to fund employees who wish to become CNAs or nurses.

According to the state Department of Health, Gracedale provides 3.31 nursing hours per resident per day. It ranks #8 among 14 nursing homes in the county. The facility providing the highest level of nursing care is Moravian Hall Square, with 4.3 nursing hours per resident per day.

McClure said he is very concerned about call-offs at the home. In June, it was 32 percent of the workforce. In May, it was 33 percent.

This is well in excess of other 24/7 operations like the jail and 911. McClure said he is very pro-union, but these call-offs suggest fraud. He is mulling an investigation.

“It’s also a question of fairness to the people who show up and work,” he added.

In other news, he reported that the County’s bond rating has increased from AA to AAplus. Moody’s Investor Service said this new rating is a result of “the county’s large, growing tax base, above-average resident wealth and income, healthy financial operations and modest debt burden.” This rating increase accompanies the county’s decision to refund $5.3 million in General Obligation Bonds. The County expects to save $357,000.

The highest rating is AAA.

Despite this good news, McClure told Council that “Northampton County is going to the dogs.” He said that Danny, a Belgian Malinois working at the jail, has already discovered six contraband items, three of which resulted in prosecution. He also introduced Boomer, an 18-month old chocolate lab trained in explosives detection and tracking. Finally, he said that Human Services has begun using therapy dogs, especially for children unnerved by dependency and abuse proceedings. He said he would consult with the courts about using the dogs outside of courtrooms to help keep children calm.

Council President Ron Heckman had one question about Danny, who is assigned to the jail.

“Who will bite somebody first, Danny or Ken Kraft?”

Kraft is a former council president known for his biting comments to others, including Heckman. He now works at the jail.