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Wonderful facility

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Samaritan Summit Village opened its doors for public inspection Tuesday, when the team of Samaritan Medical Center executive and board leaders, volunteers, architects and builders joined to formally cut the ribbon welcoming the community to join the celebration of this wonderful new facility.

Less than two years ago Mercy’s skilled-nursing home inhaled the last time. The bankrupt owners and the state Health Department finally realized that the 224 skilled-nursing beds there could not be sustained. The building was falling down around the patients, bills were not being paid, and care was inadequate despite the dedicated cadre of nurses and technicians, who struggled every day to ease the life of patients — not ever sure whether or not their next pay check would bounce.

The state asked Samaritan Medical Center — itself in the midst of opening a new pavilion and undergoing substantial renovations throughout the facility — to take over Mercy Care Center for Northern New York. Samaritan agreed.

Knowing that a long term-solution to the challenge of providing care in a decrepit, asbestos-laden building was not appropriate, Samaritan worked with the state to receive a $34 million Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law grant to initiate construction of Summit Village. Samaritan took on another $30 million in debt to finance the facility.

In 2007 Jefferson County had 643 skilled-nursing home beds, 51 adult care slots and another 74 beds in adult homes. Now with the opening of Summit Village and the new assisted-living facility in Carthage, the county is blessed with 560 skilled-nursing home beds, 35 adult day-care slots, and assisted-living accommodations for 222 people —a dramatic increase in the kinds of care required by so many.

Jefferson County’s government, which has struggled for years to properly care for the 50 residents in its Whispering Pines, joined the Summit Village team, providing $5 million from its fund balance to assure that the closure of Whispering Pines benefited its residents as well as reducing costs for the county.

In mid-March, when the final state Health Department licenses are in place, residents from Mercy and Whispering Pines will move to Summit Village. What a contrast for these people. They will move from Whispering Pines, which began its life as a tuberculosis sanatorium and later warehoused polio victims during the post-World War II polio epidemics. They will leave Mercy, where they have been living in an aged, abandoned hospital no longer suited to deliver health care.

What they will find is a home filled with apartments appropriate for those needing skilled-nursing care or able to live somewhat independently with modest care. They will find common areas with fireplaces, a beauty salon, gift shop, an auditorium with a stage for movies or musical presentations, and views of Lake Ontario in the distance and the city in the foreground. They will marvel at the woodwork, the quiet of the corridors and the ease of moving from place to place.

The Board of Trustees of Samaritan Medical Center and its subsidiary boards, which operate the senior-living facilities, and especially Thomas J. Carman, Samaritan’s chief executive officer, have changed the paradigm of extended medical care and support for older members of our community. There is no place in New York that has facilities with the quality, the attention to detail and the ambiance of Summit Village. The community is blessed.

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