To no one’s surprise the Frederick County Commissioners wasted little time in selling Citizen Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility following a five-hour public hearing Tuesday evening.
It’s now clear the public hearing was nothing more than a “go-through-the-motions” sham and validated claims by opponents that the meeting was being held because of a legal requirement and not because there was any chance the commissioners were interested, much less willing, to change their minds.
A standing-room only crowd of more than 400 people crammed into the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College in a last-ditch attempt to stop the commissioners sale of the government-owned nursing home and assisted living center that have served needy local residents for about 140 years.
But four of the county commissioners, lead by President Blaine Young, had already made up their minds. The voting to sell the facilities and abolish the Citizens Board of Trustees began minutes after the public hearing ended after 11 p.m. Commissioner David Gray was the lone dissenter.
We advocated several times on these pages that the commissioners should slow down and make sure this major decision is in the best interest for all involved. It didn’t mean that the commissioners couldn’t have ultimately decided to sell Citizens and Montevue because the facilities do have a troublesome financial history. More than $53 million in taxpayer money has been spent to subsidize them since fiscal year 2000.
The problem, however, is there still are too many unanswered questions.
For starters, the cost-savings being touted by the commissioners were questionable since their own numbers in press releases, interviews and financial statements were off by several million dollars.
And a June 22 story in The Frederick News-Post reported that Aurora Health Management had a mixed track record for resident care with some facilities scoring well in quality checks and others faulted for instances of medical error, inattentiveness and verbal abuse. One of the facilities was rated “much below average,” while two others were rated “below average.” Another two centers were rated as “average.” Only two of the seven facilities were rated “above average” or higher.
That should have been enough to have the commissioners pause, even for a moment, to re-examine the numbers they’ve been force-feeding the public about short and long-term cost savings and also to at least question whether Aurora is the best management option available.
And we still believe that Citizens’ trustees should have been given the year they requested to straighten out the centers’ financial situation. Board members said they were working hard to have the facilities turn a profit and not rely on future taxpayer subsidies.
None of that matters now. The commissioners have once again bullied through another decision that appears to be based more on ideology than what may or may not be in the best interest of the community. And once again, we’re not surprised.