When Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Neil Solomon announced Thursday that "a sweeping investigation" was needed of nursing homes that offer elderly resident lifetime care in exchange for their life savings. Dr. Matthew Tayback of the state Office of Aging could do nothing but agree with him.
For the past three months, a special Office of Aging Commission, under instructions from the state legislature, has been doing exactly what Solomon asked the state attorney general's office to do.
And since early August, Tayback and members of his staff have been quietly working with the home specifically cited by Solomon Thursday as in need of a full investigation: the Odd Fellows Home in Frederick. It has had trouble meeting state licensing requirements for the care of its 18 residents because of financial difficulties.
In fact, Tayback said, the problems at the Odd Fellows home were all but resolved yesterday after a day-long meeting of Tayback Odd-Fellow board chairman Howard Carter and other state officials.
Meanwhile, Tayback was discovering through Baltimore newspapers that Solomon was demanding "an investigation to find out the facts" about the Old Fellows home. "I'm told they've taken people's money and now are saying they can't take care of them," Solomon was quoted as saying.
Tayback was not amused. "I don't know why (Solomon) is doing this, but I think it's completely unnecessary and irrelevant" he said. "We have found absolutely no evidence of any violations on the part of the Odd Fellows, and I have no reason to believe they have not been acting in good faith."
"I can only assume that somehow Solomon wasn't aware of what we are doing," said Jim Chmelik, assistant director of the aging office. "I don't know how, but there must have been a communications breakdown."
"There may have been some lapse of communication," said Solomon's spokesman, Henry Nathan, yesterday afternoon. "Some of (the aging office's activities) just came to light this morning."
"But we thought we ouhgt to look into it," Nathan said. "There have been several items in the media about this situation - NBC was interested in the Odd-Fellows - and Dr. Solomon through our input was needed in the situation."
According to Taybeck, the Odd-Fellows had been considering closing the home, which houses 18 elderly persons, nine of whom gave their life resources to the fraternal order in exchange for a life-care contract.
Yesterday, Taybeck said, the Odd-Fellows agreed to add staff to the home and to apply for a state license to continue operating it, although the home has been losing $150,000 a year.
As the agreement was negotiated, members of Taybeck's staff were trying to find out what Solomon was doing with his investigation. What perplexed them, they said, was that one of the members of the study commission appointed by Taybeck in June - Adrian Bergin - works on the staff of Jack Kent, one of Solomon's top assistants.