By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
The Daily Star — With Delaware County’s former nursing home now scrambling to correct a host of “deficiencies” uncovered by state inspectors, Otsego County Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, said Tuesday that any potential buyer for the Otsego Manor must be financially stable.
What happened at Countryside Care Center in Delhi – now under state order to correct 66 deficiencies – “won’t happen here,” vowed Stuligross, the chairwoman of the Board of Representatives’ Otsego Manor Committee.
County lawmakers – facing rising costs at the Manor and shrinking assistance from state government – have begun to consider privatizing the 174-bed facility. Stuligross’s committee went into executive session last Friday and, according to sources, opted to recommend that the Manor be sold to a private operator. The full county board is expected to take up that suggestion next week.
Stuligross declined to comment on what occurred at the closed-door meeting. She did say that privatizing the Manor will be a tough decision for the board.
“This isn’t something that any of us want to do,” she said. “But the mandates get tighter, and our reimbursement is less, and that cannot go on.”
A similar debate seven years ago preceded the decision by the Delaware County Board of Supervisors to sell the then county-owned Countryside Care Center in Delhi. That board, in the end, opted to sell the facility for $2.7 million to Leatherstocking Healthcare LLC, allowing the private company to operate the former county home as a for-profit business.
The facility is now in jeopardy of losing its federal Medicare funding if it does not correct numerous deficiencies found by the state Health Department.
According to records posted on the state Health Department wesite, state inspectors documented high medication error rates at Countryside as well as a shortage of clean linens and failure to keep up a system “to assure residents have reasonable access to their personal funds.”
Mark Scalise, the administrator of Countryside Care, said: “We have staff working very hard to resolve the issues and I have no doubt our staff will be able to get it done” in time to meet the Sept. 13 deadline for correcting deficiencies.
Over the past three years, Countryside Care has generally fared poorly in state inspections compared to other nursing homes n New York, according to the Health Department website. The statewide average for the number of Health Department citations issued per 100 beds is 1.9. At Countryside, however, state citations were issued at the rate of 30.6 per 100 beds.
Delaware County Social Services Commission William Moon told The Daily Star said his county’s decision in 2005 to sell the nursing home was “essential.” However, he added: “The county did have a choice of who it sold to. And I think that would change.”
In Otsego County, Rep. Donald Lindberg, R-Worcester, said he hopes that the debate over the Manor doesn’t get complicated by the problems that have enveloped Countryside Care.
“The problem over there (in Delhi) isn’t that they went private; it’s that the owner apparently isn’t paying attention,” he said.
Lindberg said he expects a private operator will run the Manor far more efficiently than it is being administered now.
“If somebody buys it, then they are going to run it the way they see fit,” Lindberg said.