Valley View feels the heat

18 Jul 2013 | 10:18

By Edie Johnson
— With temperatures topping 90 degrees this week, Valley View residents found their daily routine disrupted when the air conditioning in sections of the nursing home faltered or went completely out.

The residents are not in danger. But they say the on-again off-again air conditioning problem has plagued the county-owned facility for years. Laurence LaDue, the nursing home's new administrator, said this wasn't the first week staff members went up to the roof themselves to try to trigger the units back into operation.

The meeting called to discuss the problem couldn't be held in the nursing home's Town Center, where major activities are held, because the room was stifling.

The contractor who maintained the units was let go this week when he intimated the units were too old to fix, LaDue said. Six new units have been ordered. But because they are custom-built, they will not likely arrive until September.

To make matters worse, residents are stuck at the home because the van that transports them to community events is also broken and beyond repair. And longstanding problems continue with the contractor that handles the facility's voluminous laundry, which seems to be disappearing. One resident wore the same clothes all week, and another received laundry belonging to her neighbor. Some residents wondered why Valley View was paying for an outside laundry service at great expense when the work could be done at the facility.

Solutions in the works
But the staff and administrator remained upbeat. At a problem-solving session, LaDue, who already seems to know all of the residents' names, made lighthearted jokes with them and addressed their every question. He took copious notes and outlined solutions:

Temporary a/c fix — A new contractor will make temporary repairs until the new air conditioning units arrive.

Laundry committee — A committee will look into problems with the company contracted to handle Valley View's laundry.

Van donation sought — Pat O'Dwyer, a former Goshen supervisor and former candidate for county executive, said she will ask local car dealers to donate a van for the facility's use.

But through all this, staffers are keeping smiles on the faces of Valley View's residents, many of whom are elderly or suffer from dementia or traumatic injuries. The activities director, Amy Fey, schedules frequent visits by entertainers, who perform in private rooms when residents are unable to go to the Town Center. The home has barbecues and luaus. Animal Planet plans to film one of its "Too Cute" episodes at Valley View with a Bernese mountain dog and her new puppies. Pets and certified therapy dogs are encouraged to visit, as long as they have the required paperwork.

The road ahead
Valley View's fate hangs in the balance. The county executive, Edward Diana, has several times cut off funding in his effort to get the home out of county hands, arguing that it is an acute budget drain. The legislature saved the facility, at least through 2013. But Diana, who is not running for re-election this November, has approved funding only for the first third of 2014.

There's some good news for those who support a county-owned nursing home. The facility spent $1.5 million less so far this year than last year by cutting back overtime and eliminating the former administrator, Orange Administrative Services. And there are hopeful signs Medicare may improve reimbursement rates. New guidelines call for the payment of additional therapy for high-level rehab patients.

The state is currently pushing to reduce the number of nursing home residents by providing at-home care instead. The state may pay nursing homes up to $60,000 for every bed they eliminate. This effort will save more money for Valley View. Still, the question remains whether at-home services will be sufficient for residents who need the close supervision Valley View already provides.