Jeff Graham visits his 77-year-old mother every Sunday at Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Eureka.  Graham was one of about 20 people who gathered to protest Brius Healthcare Services’ plans to close the facility and two others in Eureka, which would result in nearly 150 patients having to be moved out of the county to new facilities. Graham and other protestors Thursday said they feel frustrated at the lack of information Brius has given them about the closures and what is being done to prevent them. They said they feel helpless.

Eureka residents Bob Rocha and Kellie Shaner stand in front of the Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Eureka on Thursday to protest Brius Healthcare Services’ plans to close three Eureka nursing homes, including Pacific. Shaner’s mother currently lives in one of the nursing homes slated for closure.

The curtains were closed and the blinds were shut at Pacific as the protestors waved signs at the passing commuters and chanted lines such as “People over profits, “Senior lives matter,” “This closure will kill,” and “Shame on Shlomo” — referring to Brius’ owner Shlomo Rechnitz.

“Not having anything in this area, that’s just not acceptable,” he said. “The problem that I have for giving guys like these more money is they just come back the next day and ask for more. Greed is a motivator that seems to be killing us now.”

Also among the protestors were healthcare workers, like Eureka resident Kellie Shaner.  . Shaner said she recently moved her mother Sandra from a nursing home in Crescent City to the Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center. The move gave Shaner and her grandparents more chances to see her and provide her favorite comforts like a cup of coffee and some apple pie. But now Shaner’s mother faces yet another move.

“My mother is devastated. She’s terrified,” Shaner said. “To increase the miles between us and her for potentially a second time and not knowing where she’s going is terrifying for all of us.”

She said she’s tired of Brius’ “blame game” when she states the company and its owner make enough to prevent the closures from happening themselves.

Eureka resident and activist Pat Kanzler said she has worked as a nurse for about 30 years. When she worked, Kanzler said the staff were not paid well enough and are overworked due to low staffing.

“They just didn’t have enough staff to take care of people, and as the director of staff development that is what you’re supposed to do: train people and make sure people do their job,” she said. “How can you do that if you don’t have enough staff?”

Kanzler also stated the facilities were not compliant with state standards for having enough direct care staff at the facility, and said that the facility would put management on the floor during inspections to make it look like they had enough.

 

CBS Pittsburgh reported the $2 million settlement with Reliant Senior Care Holdings related to claims of failing to provide basic services to their customers.  The company operated 22 skilled nursing facilities throughout Pennsylvania from 2012 to the present.

An investigation revealed Reliant left its facilities understaffed, making workers unable to help those living there with such basic needs as eating, drinking, showering and incontinence care.  This is a common problem in many for profit chains.

About $1.25 million of the settlement will be used to help the Department of Health revamp its oversight of nursing homes.  She says money will help the state enact recommendations made by a task force formed last year.

CBS News reported the tragic death of David Outlaw who drowned in a puddle, pinned underneath his wheelchair after being left alone at the height of Hurricane Matthew to smoke outside his South Carolina nursing home, National Health Care facility in Columbia.

A nurse told deputies that she left him unattended in a courtyard to smoke.  A nurse then came to give Outlaw his medication several minutes later and found him face-down in the puddle around 7:45 a.m., according to a police report. The report did not specify how much water was standing in the courtyard.

“Even Gov. (Nikki) Haley said everyone needed to be inside,” Richard Outlaw told The Associated Press. “My brother survived Vietnam, car crashes and two strokes, just to die in a puddle of water?”

“How negligent is it to just leave him outside in a hurricane by himself?” Outlaw’s wife Karyl said.

David Outlaw had a stroke seven years ago that left his left side paralyzed. His wife took care of him until last year, when she decided to send him to the nursing home. Outlaw’s health improved – his high-blood pressure was better controlled and his blood sugar readings were improving, his wife said.

“He still had a lot of life ahead of him,” Karyl Outlaw said.

The nursing home and deputies have told the family almost nothing about David Outlaw’s death, she said. She’s waiting on the investigations to make sure someone is held accountable.

 

The Washington Times Herald reported the indictment against James Burkhart, CEO of American Senior Communities, for   federal charges in a kickback scheme worth millions of dollars.  American Senior Communities operates dozens of Indiana nursing homes including two in Washington.  The defendants used American Senior Communities’ network of about 70 nursing homes and thousands of patients to their advantage

Grand jurors charged Burkhart with mail and wire fraud and money laundering. American Senior Communities fired Burkhart last September, three days after federal agents searched his home and the company’s Indianapolis headquarters. Also charged are former company COO Daniel Benson of Fishers; Burkhart’s brother, Joshua Burkhart, of Fishers; and Burkhart’s friend, Steven Ganote, of North Salem.

 “Federal prosecutors in Indianapolis said the defendants owned shell companies and used them to falsify and inflate the costs of goods and services. This allowed the defendants to steal discounts and rebates and conceal kickbacks, prosecutors said, letting them “divert, receive and launder millions of dollars for their personal benefit.”

Prosecutors said the defendants used the money to buy lavish items, such as vacation homes, diamond jewelry, Rolex watches, gold bars and coins, use of a private plane and Las Vegas casino chips.

Arkansas Online had an article on the battle over a proposed constitutional amendment to limit victims’ awards in medical injury cases, and new ethics rules governing the sensitive issue of campaign contributions and court decisions related to judicial elections in Arkansas.  The constitutional amendment they backed would have required the Legislature to cap “non-economic damages” in medical lawsuits at no less than $250,000, as well as limit fees for attorneys who file and win those lawsuits.

Over the past dozen years, nursing-home owners and their businesses have contributed at least $276,000 to the campaigns of the Supreme Court’s six elected justices, contribution records analyzed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette show.

The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously decided in Ross v. Martin (CV-16-776) and Wilson v. Martin (CV-16-763)  that the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment, Issue 4, was legally insufficient. The Supreme Court, in blocking the amendment vote, said the term “non-economic” was not properly defined for voters. Because the issue was already printed on ballots, the court barred state officials from counting the votes.

The state’s Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to disqualify themselves from cases under certain circumstances, including when sizable campaign donations “may raise questions as to the judge’s impartiality.”  But those same rules require judicial candidates to avoid learning the identities of their campaign donors and the amounts they contribute.

Critics of judicial election say that’s an almost impossible goal, since candidates attend fundraisers and sometimes sign their own campaign-contribution reports.

Large campaign donations to judges always raise questions about the fairness of the courts or the appearance of fairness, at least in the minds of the general public, said David Stewart, retired executive director of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.

That is the inherent problem in electing justices,” said Stewart, a longtime proponent of judicial appointment. “If you’re going to have elections, the candidates have to get their money from somewhere. And the public is aware of the issues involving campaign donations and the legal system.  So the appearance is always bad.”

The Arkansas Bar Association was “pleased that the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with our analysis and did so unanimously in the opinion. The court’s opinion is well reasoned and reflects what we believe to be the law in Arkansas,” Bar Association President Denise Hoggard said in an email.

 

 

 

 

 

McKnight’s had a great article on the recent GAO Report on Access to Expenditures.  The Report concludes that information on how and why nursing homes spend money should be accessible to public stakeholders.  The investigation found that information on expenditures is not readily accessible to the public or verified for accuracy and completeness.

“GAO investigators created the report to determine how the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services collects and shares skilled nursing expenditure data, as well as how facility costs vary by characteristics such as for-profit or nonprofit ownership. The report also looked into how staffing levels may vary based on facility characteristics and margins.”

Between 2011 and 2014, for profit nursing homes spent less on care, staffing, and training compared to government or nonprofit nursing homes.  Direct and indirect care costs were found to be even lower at chain-owned facilities.

The St. Louis Dispatch reported the ongoing problems at Benchmark Healthcare nursing home.  Benchmark Nursing Home owned by Festus was facing a debt crisis and was not able to provide Benchmark with money to pay for resident’s basic living necessities such as food nor were they able to pay nursing home staff.

Events leading up to staving their patients included a nursing home with no phone service, no pay checks, and the building was even infested with flies because they couldn’t pay for a trash pickup service. When food deliveries stopped, the staff was using their own money to pay for groceries for the residents.

Benchmark Nursing Home was brought to court in July of 2016 but the charges were ignored once food was delivered again. However, in August during a follow up visit, it was found out that residents were not getting the necessary medications for congestive heart failure, epilepsy, and more.

On September 13th, the state closed the nursing home and relocated more than 60 residents.

The Chicago Tribune reported the billion dollar scheme that led to the arrest of nursing home owner/operator Philip Esformes. Esformes and his father and business partner, Morris Esformes, took in millions of dollars annually from federal programs for the sick and disabled.

Arrested at one of his $2 million estates on the Miami Beach waterfront and placed in immediate detention, Esformes has been denied bond.  Esformes is “locked in a Florida detention cell where he awaits trial for allegedly orchestrating an unprecedented $1 billion Medicaid and Medicare bribery and kickback scheme.”

Two decades of Justice Department probes and Tribune investigations into allegations of patient abuse, corruption and substandard conditions at their Illinois, Florida and Missouri nursing home facilities has finally led to his arrest.

“The new federal indictment alleges that Philip Esformes and a handful of Miami co-conspirators bilked Medicaid and Medicare for 14 years by cycling some 14,000 patients through various Esformes facilities, where many received unnecessary or even harmful treatments. Drug addicts were allegedly lured to the facilities with promises of narcotics, and prosecutors say some received OxyContin and fentanyl without a physician’s order to entice them to stay.”

Esformes allegedly instructed a co-conspirator to “bribe a state (Florida) regulator” so Esformes could learn in advance which facilities inspectors planned to visit, and “modify and falsify files at his facilities before state regulators inspected.”

 

According to a report by the Connecticut Post, the U.S. Department of Labor has sued Chaim Stern, chief financial officer for Bridgeport Health Care Center, accusing him of diverting $4 million in retirement plan assets to a New York-based religious corporation and to himself.  The suit notes that Stern serves as the sole person responsible for a retirement plan for the company’s employees and beneficiaries and those of another nursing home, Bridgeport Manor.

According to the Labor Department, an investigation by its Employee Benefits Security Administration found that Bridgeport Health and Stern, who also serves as the company’s chief operating officer and nursing home administrator, have been redirecting funds from the retirement plan since at least January 2011 to themselves and to Em Kol Chai, a corporation that lists Stern as its president.

“The best interests of plan participants are paramount under federal law, and this agency will seek every remedy when retirement dollars are misdirected,” said Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security, in a statement. “The alleged breaches in this case are certainly serious enough to take to court, and based on our investigation, have clearly had a negative impact on plan participants.”
The lawsuit asks the court to remove Stern as plan fiduciary and appoint an independent fiduciary, permanently prohibit Stern from serving as a fiduciary to any federally covered plan, require the company and Stern to restore to the plan any losses by undoing their transactions, and perform an accounting of all plan transactions from Jan. 3, 2011, to the present.

The Boston Globe reported on the fight in Massachusetts over pay hikes for nursing home workers included in the state budget.  Elder advocates spent months lobbying lawmakers for the money, saying it was sorely needed to ease financial pressures on thousands of workers and improve the quality of care delivered in the state’s 400 nursing homes.  They teamed up with nursing home industry leaders, who said past failures by the state to boost funding for nursing homes has hampered their ability since 2008 to increase workers’ pay through the state-funded Medicaid program.

A report by the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, an industry trade group, concluded that nursing aides earn a median wage of about $13 an hour, not nearly enough to cover the cost of rent, food, and transportation. Housekeeping, laundry, and food service workers make even less, the report said.  Lawmakers responded, and included $35.5 million in this year’s budget, directing that money to be spent on “wages, benefits, and related employee costs of direct care staff of nursing homes.”

But the Baker administration’s interpretation of the law could result in raises going to more highly compensated nursing staff and managers instead. The Baker administration says it interpreted that staff to mean “directors of nursing, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants.” Directors of nursing are often management-level positions.  Housekeepers and other workers who are the lowest-paid employees in nursing homes would be left out, advocates say.

Senator Sal DiDomenico, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was among a small circle of lawmakers who created the final version of this year’s state budget, including the provision for nursing home worker pay raises. He said in a statement that the Legislature intended for the poorest-paid nursing home workers to receive the money. “These employees are on the front lines caring for many of our most vulnerable elders, and the Legislature wanted to ensure that they were better compensated for their work,” DiDomenico said.

“Far too many of these caregivers continue to live in poverty,” said Herbert Jean-Baptiste, a vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the workers union, in an e-mail to the Baker administration. The union is urging the administration to explicitly include these employees — housekeeping, laundry, food service, and activities staff — in the pay raise.