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Foss: Poor conditions at nursing home are troubling

Foss: Poor conditions at nursing home are troubling

Foss: Poor conditions at nursing home are troubling
The Saratoga Center for Rehab & Skilled Nursing Care at 149 Ballston Road Tuesday, June 3, 2019.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

Selling Maplewood Manor was good for Saratoga County's bottom line. 

But is that the only thing that matters? 

Or do human beings matter, too? 

Just four years after the county sold the cash-strapped Maplewood Manor to Long Island-based Zenith Care Health, federal regulators have placed the facility on a watch list of the most troubled facilities in the nation.  

It's a pretty shameful state of affairs, and it suggests that while the sale might have been good for county coffers, it was bad for human beings. 

And not just any human beings: Elderly and infirm seniors . People near the end of their lives who deserve far better than languishing in a nursing home that can't provide them with adequate care. 

Now known as the Saratoga Center for Rehab and Skilled Nursing Care, the nursing home became a Special Focus Facility in April, which means that the facility's "quality of care has consistently demonstrated failure to maintain compliance, as well as a history of facility practices that have resulted in harm to residents," according to the New York State Department of Health.  

Between May 1, 2015, and April 30, 2019, there were 96 citations at Saratoga Center - well above the statewide average of 32.

What makes the situation especially galling is that Saratoga County is the most prosperous upstate county, with a vibrant economy and above-average wages and job growth. 

If any county has the resources to provide quality nursing home care for its residents, it's Saratoga County.  

But in 2015 officials decided to wash their hands of the county-run nursing home after years of subsidizing its operating losses with taxpayer dollars. 

Given the troubles at Saratoga Center, this decision appears short-sighted and callous - a way to avoid taking responsibility for the facility by privatizing it and making it someone else's problem.

Fiscal responsibility is a worthwhile goal, but it shouldn't override all other concerns. 

Caring for needy seniors is a good use of public money. 

It prevents needless suffering by ensuring that ailing seniors receive decent and humane care when they can no longer care for themselves. 

Privatization might seem like a cheaper and more efficient way of doing things, but it often comes with hidden costs - in this case, the poor care that detracts from the overall quality of life for those who live at Saratoga Center, located in Ballston Spa.  

County officials made a mistake when they sold Saratoga Center to Zenith, and they should admit it. 

The state Department of Health should do likewise and admit they made a mistake when they approved the sale. 

The question the rest of us should ask ourselves is whether we care about the vulnerable seniors in our communities, or not. 

Because if we do, we need to invest in their care. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.  

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