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Local News

October 6, 2012

Owners, staff trade blame for home's problems

Leatherstocking Healthcare’s ownership of Countryside Care Center may be coming to an end, but the recriminations haven’t.

On Friday, Ernest Orts, the president of Leatherstocking, was quoted in the Delaware County Times as saying, “Actually, the disaster was made by the incompetent nurses and by people that don’t care to do their jobs. All they care about is how much money they can milk us for.”

Sheila Alvarez, a certified nurse assistant at the center, chuckled when the quote was read to her.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” she said.

“You could only do what supplies allowed you to do,” she said, adding that in addition to a shortage of supplies, the center was chronically short-staffed.

It was only after the state started to uncover problems at Countryside that a ratio of one aide per 12 residents was set, she said.

Alvarez said that when the staff expressed an interest in unionizing in 2009 or 2010, Leatherstocking brought in two men she described as “union busters.” The men held meetings every day, she said, to tell the staff “how bad unions were.” The union initiative subsequently failed get enough votes.

The Daily Star made several attempts in recent days to contact Orts, including a voicemail, a note left on the door of Leatherstocking’s office in Herkimer, a visit to his office at Folts Homes in Herkimer and a message passed through one of his partners on Friday. He has not responded to any of these.

His partner, Ralph Reid, did not question the accuracy of the weekly newspaper’s quotation, but said Orts “overreacted” to an email sent by the reporter, Gabrielle Pierce.

“That reporter is a former employee of Countryside who was terminated,” he said, adding that the reporter is “a very, very bitter person.”

He called the email “entrapment.”

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