The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

October 13, 2012

Countryside closure plan completed

Staff: All residents moved by deadline

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — Friday was the “end of an era,” a former employee of Countryside Care Center in Delhi said.

The last three residents were moved from the site to other facilities Friday, a spokesman with the state Department of Health said. The owners of Countryside, Leatherstocking Healthcare LLC, filed a closure plan that called for the operation to be shut Oct. 13. This came in response to a federal request for Countryside to file a plan to correct deficiencies found at the site by the state Department of Health. There were about 125 residents and about 200 employees at the 199-bed facility when the decision was made in September.

Certified nursing assistant Sheila Alvarez said the last residents left at about 11 a.m. and she clocked out at about 1:30 p.m. She has worked at the facility for about 10 years.

“We knew it was going to close but people were still hoping that someone would stop it,” she said. She was one of five nursing staff members left Friday. She estimated there were 15 the final day. Now that she is out of a job, she said she will see what her options are about finding other work.

The owners of the facility did not return calls Friday for comment. People familiar with negotiations said that a buyer is in discussion with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to purchase the business. Delaware County Supervisor James Eisel could not be reached for comment Friday.

The county agreed to sell its facility to the private company in 2005. It had operated as a nonprofit agency since the late 1960s. It began as the county poor house more than a century ago and was later known as the Delaware County Infirmary.

Among the last staff was Vicki Aitken of Delhi. She has employed three years as a licensed practical nurse. Her mother was a resident there until recently. Aitken placed her in Robinson Terrace in Stamford, but said she was not properly informed about her mother’s need to move.

As an employee, since department of health officials came to the site in August, working there had been “a horrible experience. It was very stressful,” Aitken said.

“We have all shed a lot of tears, especially seeing our residents leave.” But when the last ones were taken out, “there are no words to describe how I felt,” she said. She hasn’t found another job, “but we can all go on. They had no choice.”

There is a reunion planned for people who worked at Countryside over the years, to be held Sunday at the American Legion Hall in Delhi from 4 to 8 p.m. More than 100 people have confirmed that they will attend, Alvarez said, and it will be an opportunity for people to get together one last time.

It will be a bittersweet, but “we have a lot of good memories. We were like a family. We helped each other through hard times,” she said.

Aitken also said she would be attending the reunion.

“I hope it will be a good time to get together with fellow workers,” she said, but added that there will be a somber tone.