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Providence Rest saved from crisis

A major snafu by a state agency almost destroyed a well-respected neighborhood institution and the well being of its staff.

Providence Rest, in Country Club, recently completed an extensive modernization project that took it to the brink of bankruptcy and labor strife. Senator Jeff Klein interceded to unravel the mess and arranged for a state infusion of $4 million.

When Providence Rest launched its 3-phase, $4 million modernization, it expected to receive a one-time payment of $3 million in Medicaid reimbursements, Providence Rest assistant administrator Susan Steinberg said. But the reimbursements were delayed. Consequently, Providence Rest owed several months of payments to its healthcare workers’ 1199 SEIU benefits fund; roughly 75 percent of Providence Rest employees belong to 1199 SEIU. The workers were ready to strike.

 “[Providence Rest needed] the $ 4million,” Senator Jeff Klein said.  “Through a bureaucratic screw up, the state Department of Health did not process the reimbursement money and Providence Rest could have ended up closing down.”

Desperate for help, Providence Rest administrators sent a letter to Klein in June. The senator wrote to the state DOH commissioner and requested that he expedite the reimbursements.  Klein also contacted the state Medicaid director. He explained the urgency of the situation and how seniors in his district rely on Providence Rest.

“Providence Rest is my second home,” resident Maria Cerreta, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday, December 12, said.  “I couldn’t have found a better place to go that gives me all I need.  Senator Klein is really a wonderful person for helping.”

The state DOH approved the reimbursements in September. Providence Rest accepted payments of $920,000 in mid-October and $3.1 million in late October.  

“I’m glad I was able to help,” Klein said.  “With senior citizens we always have to do the right thing and do it quickly.”

Sr. Seline Mary Flores, a Providence Rest administrator, was overjoyed when the reimbursements arrived and grateful to all those who helped to secure a bright future for Providence Rest.

“We were in such a financial crisis and the money came just at the right time,” Flores said.  “A lot of people were instrumental in helping but ultimately I think it was a gift from God.”

The modernization began in 2005. Phase I involved the construction of a new 120-bed wing, which opened in 2007.  Phase II was the renovation of the Pope Pavilion and Phase III, completed in 2009, restored the Generoso Pope Memorial Building.

Reach reporter Amanda Marinaccio at 718 742-3394 or amarinaccio@cnglocal.com

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