While it’s true that federal budget constraints and rising health-care costs turned the Saratoga County-owned Maplewood Manor nursing home in Ballston Spa into a big money loser, you’ve got to wonder whether selling it to Zenith Care Health Group is the right solution.
This is awkward, because like a lot of people, I’ve got some ideas about where the county should spend extra money which it could get by dumping the nursing home. But reading this recent Times Union story, or this one in May from the Saratogian,one has to wonder about the deal with Zenith.
Not long after we moved to this area in 2006, I was, like many baby boomers, faced with an unpleasant task. I had on short notice to find a nursing home for a beloved relative. I did not at that time consider Maplewood, where I had never been, because of a prejudice against county-run facilities, and got my relative into Saratoga Hospital Nursing Home, where she was well cared for.
But in recent years, after I’d had some occasions to visit Maplewood as a volunteer, I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed a well run place with caring workers.
The union representing those workers is harshly critical of the proposed sale. And according to this May article from the Boston Globe about a strike in Lexington, Mass., against a nursing home after Zenith took it over, the company had “announced to the staff that as of May 1 it intended to cut wages by up to 40 percent for some employees, as well as reduce the company’s share of employee medical insurance premiums.”
The Zenith deal here is being held up by the state Health Department, which has caused grumbling among county officials. Maybe it should be held up until some conditions are attached preventing drastic cuts in either compensation or staffing. That might, of course, kill the deal, or at least reduce the financial benefit to the county. But it also might reduce the chance of a Captain Reynaud effect, named after the character in the movie “Casablanca” who was “shocked, shocked” to discover that gambling was going on, just before he is handed his winnings. In a few years, will we be “shocked, shocked” to discover that patients are getting worse care from fewer and lower-paid staffers?
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