Countryside Adult Home staff member Brandy French serves coffee Tuesday May 1 to Countryside resident Michael Connor. The adult home will soon be hosting the patrons of the Warrensburg senior mealsite, now that the state Health Department is poised to approve the relocation of the luncheon program to Countryside. Until this week, the state Health Department had required that if the move occurred, mealsite patrons would have to undergo a three-day test for tuberculosis, which Warren County officials predicted would kill the program.
State Health Department officials have withdrawn their requirement that local seniors who eat lunch at the proposed mealsite at Countryside Adult Home would have to first undergo a tuberculosis test.
The TB test mandate had stymied Warren County’s plans to move the mealsite from its present location in the basement of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Warrensburg to Countryside, which is located several miles north. The Health Department’s new stance paves the way for the relocation to go forward, county officials said May 1.
The TB test, which involves a skin piercing and a three-day waiting period, had prompted dismay among both county officials and the seniors who attend the mealsite.
Ruth Near of Thurman, a regular at the Warrensburg mealsite, said April 30 that the TB test, which seniors would have to pay for, was not reasonable.
“It doesn’t make sense to require us to have this test, while visitors to Countryside don’t have to have it,” she said.
Sylvia Brown, a frequent visitor to Countryside and a mealsite regular, also decried the requirement.
“This is crazy — it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “We’re safer than many of the people who go up to Countryside to visit. People can catch all types of infections in the grocery store, their local health center, doctor’s office, or just out in public.”
Health Department spokesman Peter Constantakes said Friday that such objections of Warren County officials and seniors made sense.
Health Department officials, he said, will be working with county representatives to set up less burdensome but more comprehensive health safeguards than the TB test.
The present concept under discussion by state officials is for all mealsite attendees to be checked for external signs of contagious respiratory diseases or flu-like symptoms as they enter Countryside, he said.
Those who come to the mealsite and exhibit such symptoms will be encouraged to return after they recover, he said.
“We’re trying to protect the Countryside residents from communicable diseases that could place their health in jeopardy,” he said.
Constantakes said Health Department officials were now finalizing guidelines of how Countryside staff could monitor mealsite patrons’ overt health symptoms.
“We’ll be working together with the county to come up with an agreeable plan,” Constantakes said. “We’re trying to resolve this issue in everybody’s best interests.”
Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek said late afternoon May 1 that he was very pleased with the Health Department making accommodations so the Warrensburg mealsite move could go ahead.
“This is great — it sounds like a common-sense solution, and the Health Department is demonstrating cooperation with local government that we need,” he said, praising the agency’s responsiveness. “This is a very important issue for us, as the location change is important in controlling costs.”
The move of the mealsite has been prompted by the potential savings of $12,500 or more annually in lease and utility payments, as well as savings in food procurement and kitchen operations.
Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, who serves as the county’s Budget Officer, also praised the agency’s change in plans.
“We’re thankful the DOH has reconsidered their position — and we can now move forward with relocating the mealsite at Countryside,” he said.