A proposed center for Alzheimer's disease patients in Sykesville faces a challenge from a nearby nursing home.
Sykesville Eldercare Center asked a state agency last week to order a formal hearing on the proposed center. Episcopal Health Ministries Inc. is seeking state approval for a 165-bed facility on the grounds of Fairhaven, an upscale retirement community at the northern edge of Sykesville.
The Alzheimer's care center, called Copper Ridge, is planned to offer a range of services from adult day care to skilled nursing care for victims in advanced stages of the disease.
Sykesville Eldercare's request for a hearing says the Copper Ridge planners are asking for more nursing home beds than the state says are needed in Carroll County and the proposal fails to take into account the possible adverse impact on other county nursing homes.
The hearing request also cites state records indicating that Fairhaven has not fulfilled its 1977 pledge to accept Medicaid patients. Fairhaven is operated by Episcopal Ministries to the Aging Inc., a parent corporation of EHM, which will operate Copper Ridge. To meet state requirements, EHM promises that 50 percent of the patients at Copper Ridge will be eligible for Medicaid.
"Copper Ridge cannot be permitted to simply assert that it meets the needs of dementia patients in a better way and that, therefore, it should be considered so far superior to other facilities that it will have no impact upon them," the nursing home said in its petition for a hearing.
Attorney Howard L. Sollins, who represents Sykesville Eldercare, said a key point is the state health plan's assessment that Carroll County needs only 37 additional nursing home beds.
"We don't believe an entirely new nursing home needs to be built in Carroll County simply to meet that need. The needs of dementia patients can be met through creative programs in existing nursing homes," Mr. Sollins said.
Carol L. Kershner, EHM vice president, could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.
Mr. Sollins said his point on whether Fairhaven met its earlier pledge to accept Medicaid patients was based on documents from state government files that indicated the retirement community is not participating in Medicaid.
"We recognize that it is possible Fairhaven may have some documents that show this is wrong. We just haven't seen them," he said.
Mr. Sollins said he is confident that Sykesville Eldercare meets the legal definition of an "aggrieved party," which qualifies it to request a hearing. If the state attorney general's office agrees, a representative of the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission will hear testimony from both sides. The hearing officer will make a recommendation to the full commission, which will decide whether to approve the Alzheimer's facility.
Mr. Sollins said Sykesville Eldercare has dementia patients, a common diagnosis among nursing home residents. Dementia is a general term for mental deterioration because of organic brain disease. Alzheimer's is a form of dementia that involves progressive loss of memory, deterioration of intellectual functions, apathy and disorientation. No cure exists.
Robert Killett, owner of Sykesville Eldercare, could not be reached for comment on any programs his nursing home offers for Alzheimer's patients.
The Copper Ridge application received a preliminary endorsement last week from the Western Maryland Health Planning Agency. However, a spokeswoman for the agency said the application could be reconsidered if the staff finds significant issues in Sykesville Eldercare's challenge.