On February 1st, Zenith Care Health Group officially became the owner and operator of Saratoga County’s Maplewood Manor nursing home and not soon after, local media began reporting on staffing and quality-of-care issues at the 277-bed facility.
People voiced concern at two well-attended public meetings this month, but Zenith spokesman Aaron Lichtman said the community has been supportive of the company.
“While people do have growing pains and there are issues that we’re trying to address as quickly and efficiently as possible, the general tone has been very supportive. And we’re very appreciative of that,” said Lichtman.
By the time Saratoga County was ready to sell the property, Maplewood Manor had been operating with a nearly $14 million deficit. According to Saratoga County Administrator Spencer Hellwig, continued support of the facility could have led to a significant increase in property taxes.
“At the time the Board made the decision to move forward with the sale, the alternative was a 20 percent increase in the property tax rate, which was something there wasn’t an appetite for,” said Hellwig.
Hellwig said so far the transition to Zenith Care has achieved two primary goals, the first of which is providing adequate nursing services to residents of the county.
“That goal was reached, and the other one was the find a buyer that would have the wherewithal to not only takes over the facility, but to invest in it. And both of those goals have been met at this point,” said Hellwig.
Zenith will be making at least $2.5 million in upgrades to the home. As one of its first capital investments, Zenith is transitioning the home’s record-keeping from manual to electronic.
Saratoga County remains on the hook for some legacy costs, particularly health benefits for former employees under the county.
The workers at the home are currently not represented by a union.
CSEA represented about 150 employees at Maplewood Manor prior to the transition to Zenith Care.
Before the home came under Zenith’s control, CSEA attempted to negotiate a successor agreement for employees staying on under the new management. The employees voted against the agreement.
CSEA spokeswoman Therese Assalian said she hopes the union can have a presence at the facility.
“We’re optimistic that CSEA will be recognized and that we’ll be able to pick up where we left off…with respect to a new contract,” said Assalian.
Lichtman said the company is interested in working with employees in whatever way they choose to be represented, but also cautioned that changes will be made from the old way of doing things.
“Should there be a desire and a legally sufficient reason that CSEA can be deemed their representative, we would be happy to speak with CSEA, try to work with any issues as quickly as possible. Obviously, the facility cannot return to a $13.7 million loss the county suffered when they were the operator.”
Lichtman said there are more than 30 positions that have yet to be filled, with 120 applicants.
Among the changes, a new doctor, administrator, consultant, and nurse practitioner have already been brought in during the transition. Food service and laundry have been contracted out to private companies.