As a pharmacist providing medications for nursing home patients for the last 30 plus years, I have witnessed and like many who work in the industry have been personally affected by bad nursing home operators. During Covid we lost over half of our patients that we serviced and the facilities have not yet fully recovered. Covid really put the spotlight on our nursing home operators and our seniors. Unfortunately we were shown in large numbers just how our current nursing home healthcare system is broken.The system that we have empowered to take care of our most vulnerable populations is in need of a total overhaul. We can no longer allow bad operators to take advantage of our seniors!
Ownership of Nursing homes is not transparent to the public
Would you leave your pets with a pet sitter that you did not know or did not have proper credentials?
When you hire a handyman isn’t the first thing you do is check their background, read reviews, make sure they have the qualifications to do the job?
So why do we hand over our parents or spouses and our money to entities that we know nothing about? We do not know who the owners are or whether or not they are even qualified to do the job.
I really wanted to believe that the administration operating many of our for-profit nursing homes are doing the best they can for our loved ones. On initial viewing the facility appears to be well maintained, sparkling chandeliers, lush carpeting, and beautiful fireplaces in the common areas. The facility’s website has a mission statement that sounds like Mother Theresa herself wrote it.The testimonials seem too good to be true, and usually are. How did we allow this to happen?
Have you ever tried to find out who the owner of the nursing home is? Check the Data Registry lately? You will find many layers, shell companies, and it will take you hours as you sift through the ownership maze.Do you know who owns the pharmacy that provides medications to the nursing homes? Is there common ownership? Could that be a conflict?Is the nursing home for-profit or non-profit. Recent studies point to non-profit communities providing better care than the for-profit homes because their priority is to their patients not to shareholders and owners.
Aren’t these nursing homes receiving money from our federal government? Doesn’t the federal government ask on the Medicare applications if you have ever been convicted of a crime? Are you on the OIG list? Oh, I guess a settlement vs. convicted is the work around?If a business that receives any money from federal funds employs a convicted felon, the business is in jeopardy of losing their funding. A dismissed charge is the ticket.Who is looking at this? Wouldn’t you think twice about leaving your mother in a nursing home where the owners were facing a federal class action lawsuit for allegedly trafficking nurses from the Philippines?
Most people have no idea how the related parties and the ownership of the vendors of the nursing homes can impact the care of their loved ones. Checks and balances need to be in place with stronger oversight and a strong, robust enforcement agency to maintain accountability.
In May 2021, Governor Murphy of New Jersey signed into law A.4477. This law mandates that prior to transferring ownership of a long-term care facility, operators must now submit the identifications and addresses of current and proposed new owners.An organizational chart of the new company, a copy of the sale agreement and a list of facilities owned by the new owner within the previous five years must also be submitted to the state. The ownership transfer will then be subject to the state for approval. This is a huge step forward to protect our New Jersey seniors and kudos to Governor Murphy for signing into law.
Are Bad Operators new to the Long Term Care industry?
In an article published by The New York Times; January 7, 1975, is evidence that there is a history of bad operators in the nursing home industry which goes all the way back to 1960.
“According to New Jersey Health Department files, officials summoned Mr. Bergman to Trenton when he sought state approval for nursing homes in 1960 and told him they would not permit him or his syndicate to operate in their state. The officials had been advised by the then Commissioner of Investigation of New York City, Louis I. Kaplan, of massive frauds and abuses in care on the part of the syndicate.Although The New York Times has sought the Federal files on this allegation for three months, they have not yet been furnished. But letters in Trenton referring to the case indicate that it was settled after Mr. Bergman engaged as his lawyer, Warren W. Wilentz, former Democratic candidate for the United States Senate from New Jersey and son of David T. Wilentz, the Middlesex County Democratic leader.”
Fast forward to 2018, Joseph Schwartzs’ nursing home empire collapsed 4 years ago.He operated under the name Skyline Healthcare in New Jersey, which included the facilities: Hudson View Care & Rehab Center in North Bergen, Brookhaven Health Care Center in East Orange, and the Voorhees Care & Rehabilitation Center.He also owned numerous homes across the country under different names that also fell into financial ruin. He has been charged with federal tax evasion and fraud. He failed to pay 29 million dollars in federal taxes. Where did the money go? It did not go to taking care of the patients.
The troubled Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Sussex County, was another facility that Schwartz wanted to purhase. When he was not able to be part of the deal he was able to incorporate his son Louis as an owner.Andover Subacute came under the national spotlight when 17 bodies were found stored in a makeshift morgue, at the height of the COVID pandemic. Andover has since been rebranded as Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center and Limecrest Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, according to state Department of Health Records.
How do we protect our seniors?
How do we see through the smoke and mirrors and what tools do we have as caretakers to protect our loved ones from these predators?
First, we must start paying attention to who is opening, who is operating, and buying nursing homes and what other related businesses do they own in relation to the nursing home operations? Start asking the QUESTIONS, and do not stop until you are satisfied with the answers.How is the facility rated? How have they done on state surveys? What is the staff turnover? Do the operators and or owners have any experience in healthcare? Start educating your Legislators on your findings and tell them you are not happy and need them to hold these owners accountable for their actions.
Bob Marley’s “Get up, Stand up” lyric “Don’t give up the Fight” can be our theme song as patient advocates. If we want to see a change and stop the abuse of those that cannot stand up for themselves, WE have to GET UP and stand up and Fight to keep them safe. No more complacency allowed!