Assisted-living facility in Essex to close May 15

Heavy losses noted

58 elderly residents will be displaced

March 08, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Facing mounting debt and a troubled past, an assisted-living facility in eastern Baltimore County is closing and will begin relocating nearly 60 elderly residents to similar care centers in the Baltimore area.

The owner of Martin's Glen in the 1800 block of Old Eastern Ave. in Essex has informed families of residents and staff members that the facility, which opened three years ago, has defaulted on its mortgage and faces about $80,000 in monthly losses.

Martin's Glen is scheduled to close May 15.

Families of two former residents have civil suits pending against the owner, Enter- prise/Essex Inc. of Columbia, and other parties. One resident alleges she was slapped by an aide; another claims she was given an overdose of a blood-thinning medication that caused serious health problems.

John J. Condliffe of Towson, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the closing would not affect the suits.

However, the news has hit the Essex-Middle River area hard.

"It's absolutely devastating for the residents and their families, but it's also a real tragedy for my district," said Del. Nancy Hubers, a Baltimore County Democrat. Hubers said that the east side needs large, stable businesses, and that she hopes Martin's Glen reopens under new ownership.

In response to complaints, the state health department in 2000 began a study of conditions at Martin's Glen. The department issued a 120-page report in August of that year saying that patients had been given the wrong medications, workers were not certified in basic first aid, and residents had suffered broken bones in falls.

Emeritus Assisted Living, a Seattle-based firm that operated the facility for Enterprise/Essex, promised improvements. However, Emeritus was replaced by Episcopal Home for the Aging, a regional group that received high marks from state regulators and families of residents.

`Owners are very helpful'

"It really changed for the better, and the owners are very helpful in helping her move," said Catherine Pumphrey of Baltimore, whose mother, Catherine Sipes, 84, has been at Martin's Glen for more than two years.

"But what many people don't realize is this closing caused my mother to be hysterical," Pumphrey said. "The elderly like to get into a lifestyle, a routine. When taken out of that comfort zone, it causes confusion and fear. We think now that she will have to go into a nursing home."

Fifty-eight residents live at Martin's Glen, a two-story building with living quarters for 97.

The owner will provide each resident a $350 moving allowance and assistance in finding a new facility.

Each resident also will be assigned a specialist to help manage the moving process.

"We are committed to reducing the stress on residents and their families as they move through this transition," said John Brandenburg, spokesman for Enterprise/Essex.

Some families were suspicious of the closing. Martin's Glen is in the revitalization zone where the county envisions a waterfront destination, a community of single-family homes and a large public park.

But officials dismissed any connection between those plans and the closing.

"We are disappointed that Martin's Glen is closing, and we have no idea what will happen to the property," said Elise Armacost, spokeswoman for County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "We are not involved."

The owner would like to have kept the facility open.

"This is the last thing we wanted to do, but we had to look reality in the face," said Brandenburg.

He said that Martin's Glen failed primarily because "we simply were not able to increase our occupancy. It was a financial issue."

Brandenburg said his company invested $2.7 million in the facility, which was designed to provide care for people of modest means. The company will spend another $1.5 million to close Martin's Glen, he said.

The closing was also blamed on the region being saturated with assisted-living facilities.

`An oversupply' of facilities

"There was such an oversupply of such facilities that it depressed our ability" to keep Martin's Glen solvent, Brandenburg said.

Enough openings exist at other facilities within a 10-mile radius of Martin's Glen that residents and their families should have no trouble finding a place to live, he said.

In what some families called the most shocking incident in the decline of Martin's Glen, a staff member was charged with striking a resident while putting her to bed.

Danielle Hector, 25, of East Baltimore was convicted in October 2000 of hitting Alta Paul, then an 87-year-old Alzheimer's patient, and now a plaintiff in one of the civil suits against Martin's Glen. Hector was placed on two years' probation and given a suspended one-year sentence.

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