Utilities issues resolved for long-term care facility
By Matt Echelberry
During February’s Galion Board of Health meeting, Director of Environmental Health Stephanie Zmuda told the Board that she was notified on Jan. 23 that the utility account for a long-term care facility in Galion—which Zmuda did not name—was delinquent on paying utility bills. A shut-off notice for electric, water and sewer had been issued to facility management and payment was due by Jan. 25.
The same day, Deputy Finance Director Paul Robinson submitted a formal complaint to the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Long Term Care, requesting assistance in protecting the health and safety of the facility’s residents. The Ohio Department of Health licenses the facility.
Zmuda said a complaint investigator from ODH, as well as a representative from the Ohio Area Agency on Aging, were on site Jan. 25 to conduct an inspection, looking for any violations to the residents’ health and safety.
In a phone interview with a representative of the OAAA who wished to remain anonymous, Galion Pointe was named as the facility in question. The representative reported that surveyors of the agency did go out to the facility to determine if there were any health violations.
“They found no violations and the residents appeared well cared for,” the representative stated. “We’re grateful to the city officials for contacting us; they were very proactive.”
Pat Pollack, with the Ohio Department of Health, stated in a phone interview that her agency’s investigator was concerned about the potential risk to the residents of the facility, but management did take action to avoid the utility shut-off and the issue was resolved.
Galion Pointe, located at 925 Wagner Avenue, has been managed by JAG Healthcare since July of 2010. Jim Griffiths, CEO of the company, explained that the facility has had several previous owners over the years, some of which have either gone bankrupt or abandoned the facility.
The circumstances of acquiring the current Galion Pointe were rushed, as the previous owner was leaving on June 30, 2010 regardless of new management coming in. “We had one day to meet with employees and determine conditions of the building and operations before taking over,” Griffiths stated.
In terms of the shut-off, Griffiths said there was never a risk to residents. He emphasized that he is happy to be managing Galion Pointe and his company has spent considerable money on renovations and bringing in new furniture and equipment.
According to him, past owners left tens of thousands of dollars of debt over the years. Three of the worst offenders in his opinion were Continium, TransHealth and IHS. When JAG took over the facility, Griffiths called the operations “a train wreck” because of all the unpaid bills. He said this is not uncommon in his experience.
At that time, the facility (under previous management) had outstanding bills with several vendors, including the City of Galion. Griffiths noted that they had been working with the city to get the situation resolved for some time but there was a lot to sift through.
Paul Robinson corroborated the claim, saying that many of the unpaid bills from previous owners remain uncollected because those companies have since dissolved. His department had been working with JAG Healthcare to assess which bills the company was responsible for.
However, he also stated: “That had nothing to do with why they [JAG Healthcare] were in the current situation [the potential utility shut-off].”
“I feel bad about battling with the city over this, it was unfortunate,” Griffiths went on to say. “But now we’ve finally gotten to the bottom of this and we do not owe a dime right now.”
Robinson was glad the situation was resolved as well. “We did not want to shut off the utilities, and I think this department went above and beyond what was necessary to ensure that did not happen.”