Letter to the Lebanon Community                                            

March 9, 2020

Cedar Haven provides excellent care for our residents every day. According to the quality criteria set by WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital for local skilled nursing facilities, Cedar Haven is a Tier 1 provider of care due to our Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) star rating, length of stay data, and hospital readmission metrics. This achievement is true even in light of the fact that Cedar Haven regularly provides care for unique and difficult admission cases that other area SNFs are not willing to admit, which can negatively affect metrics such as our antipsychotic medication rate and, subsequently, our star rating. 

In doing so, we provide critical benefits to the Lebanon community and WellSpan, as these patients would otherwise need to leave Lebanon County in order to receive sub-acute services after being discharged from the hospital. Despite our commitment and the clearly demonstrated excellence of the care that we provide, we have been repeatedly condemned by Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz in her false media statements. These politically-motivated attacks directly affect our overall census, our attractiveness in hiring quality care givers, and the additional cost of supporting their impact. In sum, the damage caused to Cedar Haven, its residents, and staff by Commissioner Litz is great and far-reaching.

Several weeks ago, we shared this information directly with the County Commissioners rather than distributing it publicly.  Our hope was and continues to be that Commissioner Litz will begin to communicate positively about Cedar Haven, offering well-deserved support rather than continuing the negative remarks that have cast a shadow over our facility over the last several years. 

To this end, we are sharing our opinion of how Commissioner Litz has and continues to negatively impact Cedar Haven when she purposely misrepresents facts about which she has been informed or which are public record. This interest to communicate with you about these unfair, inaccurate, and deliberately misinformed statements is our effort to ask Commissioner Litz to communicate truthfully from this point forward about Cedar Haven, Stone Barn and myself, all of whom proudly continue to provide high-quality care for our residents despite a number of obstacles. We would also like to update you about the current state of affairs at Cedar Haven.

Summary of Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz’s Damaging Impact on Cedar Haven to Date:

  • Since 2017, Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz has repeatedly made damaging public comments about Cedar Haven that have directly impacted the facility, staff, and residents.
  • Commissioner Litz has knowingly cast suspicion and doubt upon Cedar Haven owners and management though she has received direct, honest, and up-to-date communication from these individuals explaining the issues which she says are “tangled.”
  • Current staff tell us that they wish Commissioner Litz would come into Cedar Haven herself in order to see the positive things that are happening at our high-quality facility.
  • If Commissioner Litz cares about the residents of Cedar Haven, as she says she does, she should stop spreading misinformation and share the positive news about the facility, outlined below:

The Positive State of Affairs at Cedar Haven Today:

  • The restructuring process that was a result of the exorbitant costs of the Union-led strike is going well and as expected. We have been granted approval by the court to sell Cedar Haven to one bidder but at this time no one knows whether or not the facility will ultimately be sold. There is no reason to panic about layoffs or any other negative impact to Cedar Haven because of this approval, which is a routine part of the Chapter 11 process.
  • Cedar Haven recently announced that we have been selected as a hub for Nightingale College, which will be offering nursing programs that are new to our area this year. Hands-on training components will be offered in our facility.
  • In October, our Laundry and Housekeeping Departments received the HCSG Excellence Pin and Survey Excellence Award for a deficiency-free annual survey.
  • In January, Cedar Haven announced an updated Attendance Bonus Program for direct-care workers ($.50/hr increases).
  • In February, we increased night-time differentials for all nursing department members to $2/hr.
  • We have been offering a $10,000 Sign-On Bonus for RNs who commit to work at Cedar Haven for at least two years.
  • We welcomed 14 new staff members to our team in December 2019, 22 in January 2020, and are continuing to grow.

The details:

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz has repeatedly made negative public comments regarding Cedar Haven that she knows are inaccurate in an effort to slander Cedar Haven and its owner.  In doing so, even with information that has been directly provided to her, she damages Cedar Haven; its residents and their family and friends; the employees; potential employees; referring hospitals and other care facilities; supporting vendors; and the owners of Cedar Haven.  This has been a consistent practice by Commissioner Litz, a practice that damages the reputation and success of Cedar Haven when all available information (much of which is public) and understanding refutes her comments.  For example, in May of 2017 she shared false public comments alluding to one or two supposed sales of Cedar Haven by stating that it “has perhaps been sold one or two times through stocks rather than through paying real estate taxes.”[1]

Most recently, in her January 23, 2020 public posts on the LebTown Facebook page as well as her own Facebook page, Commissioner Litz’ comments about the owner’s actions regarding the receipt of cash while not paying his debts and again accusing him of avoiding real estate taxes.  By posing this question in such a manner, she is falsely and slanderously accusing the owner of illegal activities.  I, Chas Blalack, am the majority owner of the management company that operates Cedar Haven.  From the beginning, we have prioritized improving Cedar Haven for the benefit of the residents and the community we serve with a number of positive improvements and investments in our employees, including pay raises, performance bonus programs, technology to support and improve the level of care our nursing staff provide our residents, investments in the training of our staff, and more.

Commissioner Litz has received information that clearly answers any questions she may have regarding Cedar Haven.  On March 15, 2017, we sent electronic and paper copies of a detailed update about Cedar Haven to Commissioner Litz, outlining the history of the facility since the sale and the important strides that had been made in our star rating, pay increases, and improved profitability. Then again, in January of 2018, she and the other Lebanon County Commissioners received in the mail along with many other leaders in Pennsylvania including the Department of Health, Senators, the Governor, Laura LeBeau, Lebanon Daily News and others, the following statement with detailed facts concerning Cedar Haven: https://cedarhaven.healthcare/statement. This communication was also published in the Lebanon Daily News and other local newspapers for all of its readership.[2] 

As Commissioner Litz knows, the sale of Cedar Haven was conducted legally and Cedar Haven has not been sold subsequent times. She is also aware that we chose to forgo (to not take earned management fees) our fees in order to improve and strengthen Cedar Haven for the future.  At the same time, we provided daily, required and critical management tasks and efforts to this end.  Any Cedar Haven management employee will confirm this.  We invested our earnings in Cedar Haven.  That amount is approximately $1.7 million as of January 2020.  In addition, I personally loaned Cedar Haven $2.5 million to pay for the salaries and other operating needs for the Cedar Haven residents during the strike.  I have not received one dollar of repayment.  Despite her knowledge of this information, Commissioner Litz continues to make inaccurate and misleading public comments related to these topics and to Cedar Haven in general. 

Specific Examples of Commissioner Litz’s damaging statements: 

May 17, 2017 – After receiving a document outlining Cedar Haven’s history and successes, including pay increases and the facility’s advancement to a 5 star rating, Commissioner Litz falsely states that “Cedar Haven has perhaps been sold one or two times through stocks rather than through paying real estate taxes.” 

August 6, 2019 – Commissioner Litz issues an unnecessary call for panic among Cedar Haven residents and staff, questioning whether “care, nourishment, and medical attention” will continue to be provided and whether employees will be paid

November 4, 2019 – Commissioner Litz posts Chapter 11 filing paperwork with no context or explanation on Facebook

January 23, 2020 – Commissioner Litz publicly accuses Cedar Haven’s owner of bringing in cash without paying debts and of avoiding real estate taxes

In contrast to the picture painted by Commissioner Litz, I would like to share a post that one of our employees published publicly on Facebook on February 24, 2020:

“I have been employed by Cedar Haven Healthcare Center for about 2 years. I have seen some really interesting people come and GO. I could not be prouder of the Nurse I have become through my employment at Cedar Haven. I am so ashamed of our local media as well as local officials who continue to drag down a medical facility whom has housed local and non local clients and residents alike for many many years. We provide amazing quality healthcare to clients and residents who are brought through our doors on a daily basis. Some just for rehabilitation and some permanent residency. We as a team continue to look for the BEST OF THE BEST in our field of nursing. I assure you what we do is extremely taxing and hard work, however, every smile we are able to produce is a great achievement. If you are looking to join a team of dedicated Medical professionals, just come see for yourself, how far we have come and how wonderful we continue to strive to be. Each day brings a new challenge, but not one I’m willing to ignore. On that note, I LOVE BEING A REHABILITATION NURSE AT CEDAR HAVEN HEALTHCARE SERVICES. If you have compassion, will, drive, and dedication we would love to meet you. I dare you to make or take that step.”

While we understand Commissioner Litz’s desire to continually bolster her decision not to sell Cedar Haven, it is her obligation now to support the facility, the residents and the staff. Her inaccurate, misleading and even slanderous allegations do nothing but cause unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty among all the groups we are trying to serve. We have asked and continue to ask Commissioner Litz to please let the Chapter 11 process continue to its natural end unimpeded, so we can all continue to focus on what is most important – caring for our residents and Cedar Haven’s employees.

Please, Commissioner Litz, read the accurate information we have supplied you before making additional public comments. As an elected public servant, that is your responsibility, duty and obligation to the County.

Sincerely,

Chas B. Blalack, Stone Barn Management, and Cedar Haven Management

 

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEy5klWKd38&feature=share. Though we have cleared up this misinformation, Commissioner Litz again propagated this rumor in her January 23, 2019 Facebook post.

[2] In the January 30, 2018 Public Statement, section 6 says; “The fee Stone Barn earns is the customary industry standard and is required by the current federal government backed financing.  Further, a significant portion of the management fees accruing over the last few years and owed to Stone Barn have not been paid by Cedar Haven, but rather have been invested back into Cedar Haven.”

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