“I saw your mom by the elevator yesterday,” said Terry Tree, CNA and 26 year Maplewood Manor employee. “I was talking to her and she was talking so good, so I asked, ‘Are you having a good day?’ She said yes, and then I said, ‘You know I love you, right?’ And she said ‘I love you too.’”
Tyler, daughter of a Maplewood Manor resident who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, said this type of conversation with a staff nurse is just one of many examples of the deep relationships Maplewood employees share with their residents. It’s also an example of the level of care Tyler is scared might disappear if the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors decides to privatize the nursing home.
Maplewood Manor has become a controversial topic in Saratoga County this year, after it was estimated that the county-run, not-for-profit nursing home will have a $9.8 million deficit in 2012.
A report that was completed this August by Harris Beach, PLLC and the Arthur Webb Group stated that the current operating expenses outweigh the operating revenues, which will lead to worsening deficits unless the business model changes soon.
The report recommended that the best option for the city would be to put Maplewood Manor under the care of a Local Development Corporation, or LDC.
“Under the control of an LDC, the county would still continue to have obligations to Maplewood and pay for its operations. Employees at Maplewood would continue to be county employees. In the short term, the LDC model provides for a more flexible contracting platform,” the report said.
The board has not yet addressed the public on whether or not it will form an LDC to take over the nursing home, leaving Maplewood employees and resident family members with many questions and an uncertain timeline for the nursing home’s future.
Saratoga Springs County Supervisor Joanne Yepsen said she believes the County Board of Supervisors should be more transparent and open with the public about the process of what’s happening with Maplewood Manor.
“This is probably one of the biggest decisions we’ll make in 10 years,” Yepsen said. “I want to come up with a process people feel comfortable with that is openly transparent with the public. Why is it a secret what we’re doing next at committee meetings? Nothing good can come from that.”
Yepsen said that though the rest of the Public Health Committee and Saratoga County Board of Supervisors are not being open with the public about what’s going to happen to Maplewood Manor, she is trying to make herself accessible.
“I’m open to anyone that wants to talk about this as member of the Public Health Committee,” Yepsen said.
Members of the Maplewood Manor community want their voices heard by the board.
Dorothy Tyler recently formed a group for supporters of Maplewood Manor, called the Maplewood Manor Family Council (MMFC), which held its first meeting October 15. Several group members showed up at the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors meeting, during which Tyler addressed the board with her concerns.
“We are asking you as a board to be accountable for your decisions to the people of this community and represent their views,” she told the board. “We know that you want to continue to have our county be accountable for the exceptional care of the sick and elderly, and an LDC will not accomplish this.”
Tyler, along with other members of the Maplewood community, is worried that the highly ranked care at the home (it currently has a four-star rating under the federal CMS rating on quality, which is considered above average) will diminish if the facility is privatized.
“Privatizing means you’re getting employees in with less money and less benefits, so the longevity is not there and the turnover rate will be higher,” Tyler said. “My fear is that it’s going to be like the previous facility where [my mom] came from, where a staff member may not treat her as well because it’s just a job to them—whereas here, it’s a community. It’s a family, and you know they’re taking care of each other.”
Kelley Taylor, who has worked at Maplewood Manor for 21 years, said there will be a negative impact no matter what the county does.
“You’re depleting one thing to help another,” Taylor said. “It’s going to ruin the county no matter how you look at it—we’re going into a deficit no matter what.”
The August assessment of the facility found there was a clear need for a Maplewood-type facility in Saratoga County. New York State’s Department of Health has identified a bed need of 1004 in the county, which holds a current capacity of 789, leaving the county with an unmet need of 215.
However, of the 277 beds offered at Maplewood Manor, there are 40 open beds that could be filled, ideally with private paying patients. Currently, 83 percent of the beds and patients are paid for by Medicaid. In 2010, the Medicaid reimbursement rate for such patients was $160 per day, leaving a deficit per patient, per day of $157, according to the report.
Despite these numbers, many ideas are being offered by MMFC members on ways around privatizing the nursing home. At the meeting, Tyler proposed tax increases, small pay cuts across all county employees, incorporating grants, medical programs and clinics at Maplewood, improving advertising and marketing strategies to fill the beds to capacity, and encouraging more private paying individuals to enroll.
But the report created by Harris Beach and the Arthur Webb Group said that tax increases are most likely out of the question, as the county would need to impose a tax increase of more than 20 percent in the upcoming fiscal year and impose continuous tax increases into the future just to break even.
One option county officials may have to work with is the fact that the Maplewood physical plant and real estate are debt-free. At the Public Health Committee meeting October 9, County Administrator Spencer Hellwig told the board that a consultant was hired to evaluate the physical plant of Maplewood Manor. The preliminary evaluation led the consultants to advise the board that the facility has a value in the range of $11 million to $13.5 million.
Chairman Wright said the budget will be released at the end of October, and there will need to be some decisions made thereafter with regard to Maplewood Manor.
Until a decision is made, members of the Maplewood Manor community are asking the board to openly communicate with them.
Rumors that the next Public Health Committee meeting will vote on whether they will form an LDC or not have swirled around the Maplewood Manor community, but Supervisor Yepsen said she had not heard anything about that from committee members or Public Health Committee Chairman Mo Wright. Chairman Wright could not be reached for comment as to whether or not there will be a vote.
The MMFC is planning a bigger meeting to be held within the next few weeks, and will invite all community members to attend. People who are interested in learning more about the group can visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SaratogaCountyMaplewoodManor.