Oswego, N.Y. — Pontiac Nursing Home wants Oswego Mayor William Barlow to stop publicly criticizing the troubled facility and is hinting it may sue if the mayor does not shut up.
A lawyer representing Pontiac sent a letter to Barlow demanding he “cease and desist” making “negative and defamatory” comments about the 80-bed nursing home at 303 E. River Road.
The letter cited comments Barlow made in a recent Syracuse.com | Post-Standard story about Pontiac’s lengthy history of abuse and neglect. In that story Barlow said Pontiac should have been shut down years ago. “Anyone who has lived in Oswego or knows anything about Oswego throughout the last 20 years knows the Pontiac nursing home is nothing but trouble, poorly managed, doesn’t properly care for residents and offers sub-par living and working conditions,” he said.
“The statements and comments made by you are defamatory, slanderous and malicious in nature,” Langston McFadden, an attorney representing Pontiac, said in the letter. “Please consider this letter Pontiac’s good faith effort to resolve this matter without the need for litigation.”
Barlow said he will continue to speak out about problems at the nursing home and denied his comments were defamatory.
“It’s not defamatory if it’s rooted in fact,” he said. “Their documented record speaks for itself. If they don’t want me talking about their record of poor care then maybe they should improve their facility and they wouldn’t have to worry about me or anyone else talking about this.”
Government regulators recently added Pontiac to a list of the nation’s worst nursing homes that could lose federal funding unless they improve care. Pontiac was put on the list because of its “persistent record of poor care,” a state health department official said. Nursing homes on the list are subject to more frequent inspections.
Pontiac has been cited for numerous problems such as failing to protect residents from sexual abuse, not sending two gravely ill residents to the hospital for emergency care and letting water from a leaky roof drip into residents’ rooms for years. It was cited last year for failing to protect residents from a registered sex offender who lives in the facility. A state health department investigation found the sex offender repeatedly sexually abused a female resident suffering from dementia last summer. The office of the state Attorney General and Oswego police care investigating that case. Pontiac has denied any wrongdoing in that case.
In the letter to Barlow, McFadden said, “Pontiac’s staff and management team have the utmost respect for their residents and are disappointed and deeply saddened by the recent allegations. Despite these allegations, it should be known that Pontiac is committed to providing quality care to its residents and has implemented appropriate measures to ensure the protection and well-being of its residents.”
Pontiac is a for-profit nursing home owned by Cosimo Mastropierro of Long Island, who also owns three other nursing homes in New York state.
Barlow said the situation at Pontiac is one of the few issues he’s discussed publicly as mayor that have painted Oswego in a negative light.
He said he has a moral responsibility to speak out about problems at Pontiac because they affect some of Oswego’s most vulnerable residents.
“I’m not going to stop and I’m going to keep applying pressure to try to get the state health department and other agencies to do their jobs,” Barlow said.
James T. Mulder covers health and higher education. Have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or firstname.lastname@example.org