Legislature failed to heed warnings of substandard care if county-run nursing home was sold

Posted 2 December 2022 at 9:03 am


Back in 2013, an advocacy group (Concerned Citizens in Orleans County), began an undertaking to save The Villages, our then county-run nursing home.

Our members were made up of a politically diverse group, and our focus was not on politics but on compassion for our most vulnerable. Our research exposed the pitfalls of privatization which were presented to the County Legislature.

Included were trends of significant staffing cuts, workers’ wages and employee turnover affecting care continuity and shortages of medical and patient care supplies. These factors are consequential disservices to the physical, emotional and social needs of all residents in nursing homes. Profit over care has plagued the privatized nursing facilities in most states.

Many questions were proposed to the Legislature to not only assess the financial portrait of The Villages, but to investigate various options to keep the nursing home in the public domain, so the eldercare could be maintained at an optimal level. The Concerned Citizens submitted many ideas obtained from the wealth of business people and marketing specialists from the local community.

Many people wrote point of views in the newspaper, citing different possibilities to look into, so we could keep this valuable community asset.

Unfortunately, the Legislature did not listen, even after 60-plus people attended their monthly February meeting. In fact, as a whole, they did not even have the decency to provide feedback. The most important role of an elected county official should be the connection and communication to and with their constituents.

Effective communication from local government is vital so the citizens stay informed and trust is insured. The Legislature not only ignored the experts and opinions on issues regarding the nursing home, but they had the audacity (months before their county election) to send a letter to everyone who had loved ones at The Villages, indicating their intent to privatize.

However, as the election drew near, they realized this was a hot bed topic so they retracted that intention, indicating they did not want to sell. Again, as soon as the election was over, the Legislature picked up the baton and ran with their original intent. Instead of meeting the challenge of saving one of our most valuable assets in the county, they moved to the first exit sign and closed the door on possibility.

Fast forward to April 2015, only four months after the new owners purchased The Villages. The rating drops to one star from three out of five. The nightmare continues as inhumane conditions, financial fraud, resident neglect and harm become explosive.

As predicted, the owners ignored the needs of the very residents entrusted to their care. Their ownership, in diverse businesses to turn a profit, became their number one priority. Staffing was cut, again to augment personal profit.

The horror reached climatic proportions during Covid, as the intolerable standard of care continued to deteriorate. An already skeletal crew became stretched to the limit. No isolation rules were enforced, causing hospitalization and death.

Having the CNAs perform work that only a licensed LPN or RN should be responsible for shows how low this facility had fallen. And during this horror show, they were still admitting more people to make that almighty buck!

It sickened me to read the article this week about the citation from the Attorney General, but what really turned my stomach was this debacle was so preventable. If only the local government and the community could have come together to tackle the problem, an unprecedented solution could have saved The Villages and served as a model of excellence for other counties.

Mary Mager

Fairport (former Albion resident)