PennLive reported their big win in Court. The Pa. Department of Health has been directed to turn over the lease agreements of nursing homes to PennLive. Nursing home operators typically submit the leases to the health department, which regulates the industry. The state Office of Open Records directed the department to release the records within 30 days. PennLive has been aiming to obtain the leases for the nursing homes formerly managed by Golden Living. PennLive sought the records as part of an investigation which found that problems persist at many of those homes, even under new management.

PennLive reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie initially sought the leases as part of a special investigation examining the quality of care in nursing homes.  The state Office of Open Records ruled this week that the health department must provide the leases within 30 days.

Several months ago, PennLive asked the health department for the leases of 36 nursing homes that had previously been owned by the Golden Living chain. Golden Living sold its nursing home licenses to other operators but the company still owns the properties.

The health department rejected PennLive’s request for the documents, saying the records contained confidential information. PennLive appealed to the office of open records.

In its special report published last month, PennLive’s investigation found that many homes formerly owned by Golden Living continue to offer substandard care, even under new management. PennLive has been aiming to obtain the lease agreements because they could provide more insight into the operations of the homes.

Matt Yarnell, president of the SEIU Healthcare of Pennsylvania, told Pennlive that nursing home leasing deals make it difficult for the public to understand what companies own which homes. And Yarnell said that makes it hard to know what influence those companies may be exerting behind-the-scenes. The union represents 45,000 health care workers in Pennsylvania.

I think Pennsylvanians want to know where their tax dollars are going,” Yarnell said. “We need to know the financial arrangements behind these homes.”

David Marks, a Texas-based attorney who specializes in elderly care litigation, said some nursing home companies include very strict requirements in their leases.

Marks cited a case he’s litigating that involves a major assisted living chain. That chain, like Golden Living, leases nursing homes to other operators. Marks said the chain exercises a great deal of control over the operators through its leases.

The lease agreements are pretty shocking,” Marks said. “The leaser effectively controls operations, approves the budget, receives financial forecasts and – if the financial forecast is not agreeable – has the right to modify the budget.”

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