CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS A handwritten no trespassing sign is taped to the door of one of two Eastern Comfort assisted living homes on Cherry Hill Road in Palmerton.
Standing in his room at Eastern Comfort Assisted Living facility on Cherry Hill Road near Parryville, Paul Kiefski picks up a Philadelphia Eagles sweat shirt from the pile on his neatly made bed. He folds it carefully, then shakes it out and folds it again, this time perfectly, before placing it in a large trash bag held open by an employee.
Kiefski, who turns 58 on July 14 and has lived at the home for 11 years, is slowly packing up his belongings to move.
The state Department of Public Welfare has ordered the home closed and its 26 residents moved to other facilities by the end of the day today because its owner, Steven J. Miga, has failed to correct numerous violations dating to 2008.
The violations included open trash containers, feces on a toilet and musty-smelling rooms.
The state on Jan. 6, 2009 notified Miga that it would not renew the facility's provisional license. Miga appealed, but the final order to close was issued on June 24.
He has vowed to take his appeal to Commonwealth Court.
Even if his appeals fail, Miga can have up to three residents at the facility without having to have a state license, according to DPW.
By noon Thursday, Kiefski and Mark Tichy are the only residents left at the facility. The staff of 14, now dwindled to a few who spent the day cleaning the facility's two homes, must find new jobs.
The staff tries to keep a positive attitude as the last residents are taken away.
"You're going to be fine," home administrator Diane Deemer tells a gray-haired man as he shuffles uncertainly off to his new home.
Kiefski takes a break from drawing a goal post using a ruler, an Eagles pencil and a football-shaped eraser to resume packing. His room is a shrine to the Eagles. His curtains are Eagles green; Eagles blankets, plates, mugs, hats, sweatshirts, pennants, photos, bobblehead dolls and wall hangings decorate the room, floor to ceiling. All of it, every item, is assigned a particular spot, and Kiefski knows if anything has been moved, says employee Christine Coulson.
Some of the staff at the facility fight tears as they pack belongings and clean now-empty rooms.
"I'm going to miss them," Coulson says.
Later, she and employee Nicole Park begin to pack up Tichy's belongings, which include a life-size photograph cut-out of Elvis Presley on a closet door and a couple of framed photos of the late singer.
In the kitchen, Jennie Green is cooking what will be the last lunch at the home: spaghetti and meatballs. Kiefski and Tichy wash their hands and sit down to eat at the otherwise empty table in the big dining room with its stone fireplace.
Outside, representatives from DPW sit at a picnic table, talking with residents' family members and with providers of other facilities.
A piece of paper with the words "no trespassing" written in red marker is taped to the door of the home, ordered up, staff said, by Miga. A state police cruiser was parked nearby for awhile earlier in the day, just to make sure the transfers went smoothly.
Efforts to reach Miga for comment Thursday were unsuccessful; staff said he has not been at the Cherry Hill Road facility.
Miga has publicly blamed employees for the violations.
Employee Jennifer Green spoke out about that in an e-mailed letter to the TIMES NEWS.
"At this time, it is of the utmost importance to me that our staff not be slung through the mud. I personally did all I could to provide them with quality of life and my heart is breaking at the loss of what I consider to be a second family. I would like some of my opinions to appear in the paper for people to know that we did try our best and not look at us as if we are at fault. We weren't a perfect staff and there were errors we are accountable for, and have been held accountable for. The simple fact of the matter however, is we weren't shut down for those errors, we were shut down for non-compliance. Steve Miga is solely responsible for that," she wrote.
Miga's other assisted living homes in Easton, Allentown and Slatington also have been cited for violations. However, the violations have been corrected and the homes are not in danger of being closed.
"Licenses for the Slatington, Easton and Allentown facilities are all current," said DPW spokesman Michael Race.
The home at 2040 Northampton St., Easton, was cited on June 10, 2009 for failing to update residents' income changes; a gallon of pot and pan cleaner in an unlocked kitchen and a bottle of hand lotion in an unlocked closet; dead bugs in a ceiling fixture; a steel door to the outside didn't close properly, letting in bugs; one side of an entrance ramp was not level with the ground and there was a four-inch dip in the macadam, making it a tripping hazard; one room didn't have a lamp close enough to be reached from the bedside; no written evacuation time from a firefighting expert; and an expired tube of antibacterial ointment in a first aid kit.
The home at 1493 East Emmaus Ave., Allentown, was cited on Sept. 29, 2009 for failing to update client contracts; a staff person who failed to meet educational requirements was retained beyond the 30-day provisional hiring period; three workers failed to be given an orientation; the hot water in one bathroom exceeded the maximum allowed to be accessed by residents by 5.9 degrees; a side ramp hand rail was rotted and broken; a portable space heater was in the basement; all residents were not evacuated to a public thoroughfare in monthly fire drills; fire drills were held routinely rather than on different days at different times; a medical evaluation for one resident did not have the fields for blood pressure, temperature, height and weight filled in; a prescription medication for one resident was dispensed into a cup more than two hours before being administered.
The home at 206 Diamond St., Slatington, was cited on Aug. 12, 2009 for failing to address in writing the home's policies and procedures for prevention of reportable incidents and conditions; the quality of a management review did not address those procedures, staff training and complaint procedures; the emergency lights on an exit ramp were broken; a ceiling vent fan in a bathroom was broken; a freezer in the kitchen was leaking water; some bedroom windows were covered with sheets instead of curtains; a water delivery schedule did not confirm in writing that water would be delivered to the home in case of emergency; the home did not follow its procedure for use of oxygen masks; one bedroom had free-standing oxygen tanks behind a door and another tank was stored by an exit door in the dining room.