Mercy sale approved by state, new owner says

TUPPER LAKE — The new owner of Mercy Living Center nursing home in Tupper Lake, Menajem “Mark” Salamon, says the nursing home’s change of ownership was approved by the state Thursday.

The state Department of Health had not released documentation of an approval on Thursday, but Adirondack Health spokesperson Matt Scollin said the health care organization had been informed of the development.

Mercy is at a crossroads. Adirondack Health couldn’t make its financials work amid mounting losses across the health care system, so it’s selling the facility. Salamon, the new owner, operates a number of long-term care facilities across New York state. He’s been in the nursing home business since 2007 and said he buys “broken” nursing homes and fixes them up.

Dozens of residents in the Tupper Lake community are hoping the change in ownership will mean improvements to long-held complaints and allegations of neglect and abuse against Mercy. A large group met at the gym of the former Holy Ghost Academy on Sunday to discuss these concerns and try to figure out how to support the nursing home.

The sale of Mercy was announced in August, but the state Department of Health has to approve the transfer of ownership, a process which has taken several months. In the meantime, Salamon has been an “operational consultant” at the nursing home, overseeing a slate of changes there he hopes will improve services for the people who call Mercy home.

Adirondack Health has owned Mercy for 16 years. But recently, it’s been losing the health care system money. Mercy lost $5 million this past year, according to Scollin.

“The financials of long-term care threatened the entire organization of Adirondack Health,” Adirondack Health President and CEO Aaron Kramer said at the Sunday meeting.

Adirondack Health announced its intentions to sell Mercy in October 2022. In March, it signed an agreement with Salamon and a fellow business partner, Jonathan Gerwitz for them to take over operations at Mercy, and a company named Tupper Lake Propco LLC bought the physical building.

Salamon owns the building. Adirondack Health continued to operate the nursing home as they waited on the state Department of Health to approve a certificate of need document to reflect the updated change in ownership.

“This has, and will continue to be, a group effort,” Salamon said on Thursday.

“We’ll continue to be involved here through the whole transition and making sure that we can do our part to make sure everything keeps moving forward,” Adirondack Health Chief Nursing Officer Dave Mader said.

It will take a while for Adirondack Health to fully hand over the reins to Salamon. He said they have a good working relationship.

“They’re very nice. This is just not their niche,” Salamon said.

Salamon plans to rename the facility “Tupper Lake Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.”

The operating company for this facility is named “Tupper Lake Center LLC.” Salamon holds a 67% portion of the LLC while Gerwitz holds a 33% portion, according to the certificate of need.

Family of residents at Mercy have been bringing their concerns to the state Department of Health for years. They say they get no response from the state and they have no faith in the state to address their concerns. They’ve been speaking out about the poor conditions they allege their loved ones live in at Mercy for several months now. After Mercy resident Donald Dean Doriguzzi wrote a letter to the editor published in the Tupper Lake Free Press on Nov. 8, Mike Vaillancourt and Barb Denis organized the meeting on Sunday.

The first step of action to come out of this meeting was a plan to meet back at the HGA again today at 6 p.m. to create a committee and start discussing solutions.

In his time consulting there, Salamon said they’ve brought the resident numbers from 30 to around 55; reopened and filled the second floor; installed cameras for safety and security; reduced a reliance on travel nurses and replaced the administrator.

The changeover has been a bit tumultuous for some, too. On Sunday, residents and family members talked about an exodus of some staff in the recent months because of the changes.

Mercy has had staffing issues for years.

“We’ve eat, breathed and slept recruiting,” Administrator Chris Esola said. He’s been working there for around three weeks now. “That’s our number one priority.”

Director of Nursing Sherry Gardener said Mercy has enough staff now that she gets to go home to her seven kids an hour and a half away, rather than sleeping at Mercy.

Some of his business partners were hesitant to invest in Mercy, Salamon said, because of its finances, but he felt a connection to the area he’s visited and said he saw a facility with a lot of potential.

“I’m not in it to lose money, don’t get me wrong,” Salamon said. “Most businesses I take over lose money at the beginning.”

On Sunday, Vaillancourt said he imagines Mercy operating at a loss will be a tax write-off for Salamon. Salamon said it would at first, because it is losing money, but he said he’s “not that type of guy” and wants Mercy to make a profit eventually.

In the meantime, Salamon said he and his business partner are “funding the losses.”

He said he believes he can turn Mercy around.

“He’s an operational expert,” Esola said. “Efficiency. He knows how to run buildings.”

Scollin said Salamon is working with “economies of scale” — buying supplies for dozens of nursing homes gets him better prices than Adirondack Health would with one.

Salamon is confident a change in leadership will mean a positive change in quality of care.

At the public meeting tonight at 6 p.m., Gardener said Mercy will be distributing volunteer packets for people interested in becoming volunteers at Mercy.

The sale of Mercy is the latest in Adirondack Health’s efforts to downsize and restructure amid financial losses.

The health organization closed its part-time emergency room at the Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center and its Lake Placid dental facility this summer.

Adirondack Health — one of the largest private employers in the Tri-Lakes region, supporting hundreds of jobs — suffered a financial shortfall of more than $14 million last year alone, according to the network’s finalized financial statements.

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This is the first part in a series of articles on care conditions and the ownership change at Mercy Living Center.


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