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October 2, 2012

Countryside on track for closure

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — DELHI — Marjorie Wormuth, 92, likely will be moving soon but not by choice.

She was among residents at Countryside Care Center in Delhi facing an uncertain future Monday as the nursing home moves toward closure.

Countryside Care is proceeding with its closure plan and aims to have no residents as of Oct. 12, according to Mark Scalise, administrator of the facility. The center will continue to provide good care for residents pending their departure, Scalise said, but he referred other questions to corporate officials, saying he wasn’t authorized to comment further.

Leatherstocking Healthcare LLC, which bought the nursing home from Delaware County in 2006, had until Sept. 13 to meet a requirement of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop a plan to address 66 deficiencies. Instead, the owners filed a closure plan with the state Department of Health.

A telephone recording at a number for Leatherstocking Healthcare wasn’t taking messages Monday afternoon or night. The business hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comments.

The recent atmosphere at the facility has been one of sadness and confusion, created by a lack of information about the futures of the facility, its residents and employees, sources at the center on state Route 10 said.

“There are a lot of emotions going on in there right now,’’ said a member of the nursing staff who spoke on condition of anonymity. Most residents felt secure at Countryside Care, she said.

“We just reassure them that they’ll be safe and happy where they’re going,’’ she said.

She and another employee, who also requested anonymity, said they haven’t been notified about their employment status, and another said her last day was Monday. Two county officials said Monday they had no confirmation that Countryside Care would be closing — and still held hopes a buyer was considering the facility — but considered the closing date to be Oct. 13.

William Moon, Delaware County commissioner of social services, said he is working directly with 14 residents on moving and has heard from about 10 or 12 other families seeking assistance. But it is difficult to be effective with second- or third-hand information about the status of the facility, he said.

“There is a certain amount of frustration with the whole process on the part of the county board and myself,’’ Moon said. Also, no nursing homes within an hour’s driving distance of Delhi have vacancies, Moon said. That includes facilities in Oneonta, Margaretville, Roscoe and Stamford, he said.

“I feel really sad,’’ Moon said.

James Eisel, chairman of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, said Monday afternoon that he remained optimistic about the facility’s future, though he hadn’t heard from any potential buyer.

Countryside Care is a 199-bed facility, and a county official in September said the home had about 125 residents. Occupancy has been declining recently, and Jeffrey Hammond, a state DOH official, said there were 93 residents as of Monday afternoon.

A DOH representative is at the Delhi site daily to ensure quality care of residents, officials said, and as long as residents occupy the nursing home, the facility must remain open.

Carol Galley, Wormuth’s daughter, said she received a letter dated Sept. 12 stating the facility would be closing.

“I was shocked, just in complete shock,’’ said Galley of Walton, about a 15-minute drive from the center. She is working to see if her mother can move to a facility in Pennsylvania or Vestal, she said, but either way, a visit will require a 90-minute drive. A facility in Buffalo was an option but the distance made it undesirable, she said.

The Countryside Care staff could have used extra hands on weekends, Galley said, but overall she has been happy with the care her mother received.

“The people here have done a good job,’’ Galley said. “I feel robbed. I feel cheated. I thought that my mother was safe and secure — that was my priority.’’

Galley said she has talked with her mother about the pending move but isn’t sure she has realized the impact.

Though when she asked her mother about the situation, Wormuth replied, “I’m not happy about it. I’m sad about it.’’

Wormuth’s roommate echoed the sentiment.

“I’m sorry it’s closing,’’ said Shirley Daly, a Countryside resident said 2010. Her son lives in Delhi, and her daughter lives in Hamden, she said, and Countryside’s Delhi location was convenient for them to visit.

Scalise and the director of nursing tried to correct problems at Countryside, some of which were long-standing, said one of the employees who requested her name not be used, and county politicians have known more than they have revealed about the facility.

Previously, Peter Bracci, Delhi town supervisor who is chairman of the county Social Services Committee, said though Countryside Care is privately owned, the residents and its 200 employees remain a concern for the town and county.

Jean Darling of Davenport said and her fiancé will meet his 90-year-old mother in the Vestal nursing home when she moves there today.

“She’s a little upset about it,’’ Darling said during an interview outside the Delhi center while her fiance had dinner with his mother. The couple would visit once or twice a week, she said, and on some warm days, visits would turn into trips to her fiancé’s home in Oneonta.

Her fiancé received no official notification about the center’s closure, she said.

Sometimes a nursing home’s financial interests overtake caring for residents, said Darling, who previously has worked at nursing homes. At Countryside, Darling said, some residents have been crying because they don’t know where they will be going.

“When they’re hurting, it hurts the employees,’’ Darling said. “It’s a shame.’’

Galley said “three or four ladies’’ left Monday for the Vestal home, and seeing familiar faces would be a plus if her mother moves there. Galley said she couldn’t hold back tears Sunday while she was attending a church service at Countryside with her mother.

“Don’t cry,’’ Galley said her mother told her. “You’re not going anywhere.’’