BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Rosemary Taft said Saratoga Center for Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care was not her first choice for her husband, Albert, but in 2018 after he had surgery for a brain bleed, a hospital told her it was the right move.

She claims she ended up having to do much of the caring for Albert, herself.

“It was disgusting,” she said of the conditions at the Ballston Spa center. “I, myself, had to give him a shower, and clean him, shave him, clean his feet.”

Rosemary Taft’s husband, Albert, shaving his face

Albert even shaved himself when he could. Besides what Rosemary described as a lack of attention from staff, she said they never set up his pacemaker device, which led to an unnecessary trip to the hospital. The incident is detailed in a notebook she kept of things that allegedly happened during his stay at the center.

“I got a call from Albany Med at 11:30 telling me he’s on his way from rehab with heart problems. Come to find out, it wasn’t heart problems, he had spicy soup the night before, so it was acid reflux,” she said, “and if this machine was hooked up, they would’ve seen it wasn’t a heart attack.”

She added that staff allegedly ignored his dietary needs, giving him drinks that were not thickened to accommodate his swallowing difficulties. Despite all this, she thought he was making progress.

Albert Taft

“The day before he was supposed to come home, I get a call that he’s on his way to Saratoga Hospital,” she recalled, “and that’s the last I’d seen him.”

In 2019, Rosemary contacted the NYSDOH Centralized Complaint Intake Unit.

NEWS10 reached out to the NYSDOH regarding her case, and got the following response:

New York State Department of Health staff completed an investigation on July 31, 2019 which included unannounced on-site visits to the facility, observations while at the facility, interviews, review of medical records and pertinent facility records. At the conclusion of the investigation, it was determined there was insufficient credible evidence to prove that violations of State and/or Federal Regulations had occurred.  Without evidence of a regulatory violation, the case is now considered unsubstantiated and has been closed.” 

New York Attorney General Letitia James and the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York (USAO-NDNY) Carla Freeman secured over $7.1M from the Saratoga Center, where Albert was staying. The nursing home was investigated after allegations that they were offering worthless aid and services to residents.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued a license to operate a nursing home to Alan Schwartz and Jeffrey Vegh after a months-long process in 2014. Around early 2017, the landlord required the legally licensed operators to turn over control of Saratoga Center due to a financial dispute. Schwartz and Vegh were replaced by Jack Jaffa and a business associate of this, along with several corporate entities, even though they didn’t have the necessary license from the NYSDOH. Jaffa and his associate took over all nondelegable duties that remained the responsibility of Schwartz and Vegh.

The unlicensed individuals operated Saratoga Center from February 2017 until its closing in February 2021. During that time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) says it provided worthless services to residents, and its physical conditions deteriorated to such a degree that it violated federal and state regulations. The DOJ says the home failed to adequately staff the home, residents suffered medication errors, unnecessary falls, and developed pressure ulcers. The Center also allegedly did not maintain hot water throughout the facility, have an adequate linen inventory, or dispose of solid waste.

In 2019, Saratoga Center was placed on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Special Focus Facility list. A list of the worst-performing nursing homes in the United States. Saratoga Center remained on the list until its closure. The United States contends that, between February 2017 and February 2021, the Settling Parties knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false claims for payment to Medicaid for worthless nursing services. This settlement resolves those allegations.

While the owners and operators are being held accountable for the false Medicaid payments, Rosemary is still frustrated.

“It’s not going to bring my husband back,” she said. “I mean, he’s gone. I’m hoping somebody else will come forward besides me.”

Attorney General James encourages anyone with information or concerns about alarming nursing home conditions, or resident abuse or neglect, to file a confidential complaint online or call the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) hotline at (833) 249-8499.