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County supervisors take stand against nursing home owner

Post-Star - 2/3/2019

Feb. 03--The Warren County Board of Supervisors plans to send a letter to the state Department of Health asking the agency to do more to ensure nursing home residents in the county are well cared for, as concerns about treatment of those who live at the former county nursing home continue to be raised.

The decision to reach out to the state agency came after a wide-ranging and emotional debate among supervisors Thursday about complaint about conditions at Warren Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queensbury, the former county-owned home in Queensbury, and a plan for a majority ownership of the former county home to be sold again.

Numerous supervisors and a Queensbury resident criticized Centers Health Care, the company that operates the 80-bed nursing home that Warren County sold in 2015, saying that complaints from family members of residents have continued despite public attention to them and calls for improvements. The home was rated as a four-star facility when the county owned and operated it as Westmount Health Facility, but has since dropped to a one-star rating under Centers' operation.

Supervisors recounted complaints they have heard from constituents, or loved ones who are in one of the many Centers Health Care-run nursing homes in the region. The company has bought up most of the municipally owned and privately owned homes in the region.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Brad Magowan said he saw firsthand the problems in a Centers nursing home in recent months when a relative stayed in one of the company's local facilities. He did not identify which one.

"The care is very scary," he said. "I think we need to do something to put some heat on the state as to how they are run."

Supervisors pointed to the death of a Warren Center resident in an accident in 2017, and a woman who identified herself as Pam Reed of Queensbury told county supervisors that many seniors who need nursing home care in the region "refuse" to go to Centers' local homes because the care is "abysmal."

Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said he has also heard from residents about the care at Warren Center, and Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino said it seems the Department of Health "looks the other way" regarding complaints about Centers Health Care.

The discussion about care issues at the home began Thursday when some supervisors sought a resolution from the Board of Supervisors protesting the proposed sale of 51 percent of Warren Center to Centers chief executive officer Kenny Rozenberg for $10. Rozenberg had initially planned to buy the county home in 2015, but withdrew his application. A manager from his company instead became the buyer because of pending violations against other homes Rozenberg ran. With those cases resolved with fines against the homes, the state is reviewing an application by Rozenberg to purchase a majority stake.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty asked that the county Board of Supervisors protest that proposal, saying the county board was "totally hoodwinked" by Rozenberg.

Glens Falls 2nd Ward Supervisor Peter McDevitt said another aspect of the DOH's inaction on nursing home administration is that it allows sales to people like the owners of Centers to own many homes, and switch ownership, despite problems with quality of care.

"Do we just stand here and let the Rozenbergs of the world play a game on the citizens of New York?" McDevitt asked.

Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said the county had no standing to become involved at this point, and said the Board of Supervisors only had one suitor when it came time to sell what was then known as Westmount, which was "bleeding money."

Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan and Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson suggested correspondence with DOH requesting that the agency do more to monitor the quality of care provided at nursing homes. A resolution was passed to be sent to the DOH to urge more oversight.

The county board is not the only agency to raise questions about DOH nursing home inspections, as the state Comptroller's Office last fall criticized the DOH's inspection program for equipment at nursing homes, saying the agency was doing the "bare minimum." DOH officials defended their inspection program, though, saying the Comptroller's Office was overstating the issues.

Told of the supervisors' actions, a spokesman for Centers said the company had no comment.

The state Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Locally, Centers Health Care operates Warren Center, WashingtonCenter for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Glens Falls Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Slate Valley and Granville centers in Granville and Essex Center in Elizabethtown. (Clarified)

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(c)2019 The Post Star (Glens Falls, N.Y.)

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