ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Already dissatisfied with the management of Lehigh County’s Cedarbrook nursing homes, county commissioners rejected an estimate that it will take up to one year to turn Cedarbrook around.

That estimate was made Wednesday night by Terry L. Hollinger, who has been nominated to be the new administrator of Cedarbrook, subject to approval by the commissioners.

Commissioners want to stop the financial bleeding at Cedarbrook, which is costing the county millions of dollars a year and is projected to continue doing so.

Also during the meeting, commissioners stressed the county has no plans to close Cedarbrook, but they want the county administration to join them in determining the future direction of the nursing homes.

Vic Mazziotti, who chairs the commissioners’ Cedarbrook committee, made a public request that the administration work with commissioners to review all six options for the future of Cedarbrook.

Those options were developed earlier this year by Complete HealthCare Resources-Eastern, Inc., a consultant the county hired to study the nursing homes.

County Executive Thomas Muller, who was not at Wednesday’s meeting, has said the administration's position on Cedarbrook will be made known when he releases the proposed 2015 county budget.

At least some commissioners are annoyed that Muller intends to unveil that budget during a Thursday afternoon news conference at Cedarbrook, rather than presenting it to them.

At least seven of the nine commissioners do not plan to attend Muller’s news conference.

“This board has a shared, equal responsibility for the operation and finances of Cedarbrook,” said Commissioner Brad Osborne. “Whatever the administration may have planned, I would like to have this board engaged in that entire process. The way we find the means of doing that is something yet to be determined.”

Also during the meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a five-year capital plan that does not include $3 million Muller wanted to make improvements at Cedarbrook.

The county runs two Cedarbrook nursing home facilities: at 350 S. Cedarbrook Road in South Whitehall Township, and at 724 Delaware Avenue in Bethlehem.

No year for Hollinger

One of the questions put to Hollinger was how long it will take him to evaluate Cedarbrook’s finances and identify possible solutions.

“That is ongoing,” he said. “I can’t give you an exact time frame.”
Osborne pressed him for an answer, requesting a time range. “I’d say give me a year to look at it,” said Hollinger.

A few moments later the nominee added: “It is going to be less than a year. We are moving ahead. We are making changes on a daily basis.”

Said Commissioner David Jones: “We can’t wait a year for answers. This is not a situation where we need a manager. Anybody can manage when things are fine. We need a problem solver. This board is going to be asking you to come quickly with answers.”

Jones said Hollinger frightened him when he said a year.

“If one year is the end point, it is too long,” agreed Osborne. He asked Hollinger: “Are you prepared to deliver results in the next several months?”

Although the commissioners won’t vote on Hollinger’s appointment until their next meeting on Sept. 10, he already has been on the job at Cedarbrook for two weeks.

No love for L.W.

Hollinger is not paid directly by the county, but has been hired by L.W. Consulting, which has been managing Cedarbrook for about 10 years.

Jones said he’s not comfortable that L.W. Consulting even understands what the appropriate questions are, “let alone provide answers.”

The commissioner said he has no confidence in the ability of LW to manage.

Jones told Hollinger: “You are my last vestige of hope.”