With the final three residents vacating Countryside Care Center in Delhi on Friday, a chapter in the rocky history of the 199-bed facility comes to an end.
The closure of Countryside — operated as a nonprofit by Delaware County starting in the late 1960s until its sale to private firm Leatherstocking Healthcare LLC in 2006 — deprives the area of a much-needed resource.
The center closed last week because Leatherstocking failed to file a plan to correct 66 deficiencies found at the site by the state Department of Health.
As our population ages, a greater number of full-time care facilities supported by Medicare and Medicaid Services will be in demand. When Countryside closed so suddenly, the options for the elderly or permanently injured include other, more-expensive private facilities that may not accept residents on such short notice or take Medicare or Medicaid as a form of payment. Residents were forced to move to care centers elsewhere, including in Vestal, Buffalo and Pennsylvania.
The closure also meant the loss of jobs for about 200 employees, including highly skilled nurses and assistants, administrative workers and others. In a rural region struggling to provide medical care to its residents, Countryside’s closure registers another blow to those efforts.
With murmurings of a possible buyer for the Delaware County center, we can hope for some restored options for residents. But this buyer must beware and be aware of the commitments and resources needed to provide the best care possible. When the county sold Countryside to Leatherstocking, it said the vetting process revealed no problems in other facilities run by the company. Why Countryside failed has been debated, with blame being cast by the company on the facility’s employees and vice versa.
It’s clear that company did not have residents in mind when it decided not to comply with state regulations. This should be its primary concern, not how much money can be saved by cutting corners and providing insufficient care to its residents. Any future owners of Countryside must do a better job of setting their priorities straight.
Countryside’s closure should serve as a learning tool for the Otsego County Board of Representatives, which recently decided to sell its county care facility, Otsego Manor, to a potential private buyer because of the increasing operational costs and decreasing outside assistance.
The board said it would sell the Manor to the highest “responsible” bidder. We hope it puts emphasis on the “responsible” part rather than the highest bid. While keeping the county solvent is important, so is providing a worthy environment for our older residents. When deciding on a private company, the board must keep in mind the needs of our residents while trying to meet the bottom line — because more than money is at stake.