Congress launched an investigation into the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes, requesting information from both the federal government and five national for-profit operators in the industry. The action comes after the subcommittee held a hearing on COVID-19 in nursing homes in which both frontline workers and academics described the problem as systemic.  The probe focuses on five major nursing home owner/operators: Genesis HealthCare (NYSE: GEN), The Ensign Group (Nasdaq: ENSG), Life Care Centers of America, Consulate Health Care, and SavaSeniorCare. (Data indicates over 500 deaths of caregivers and residents at SavaSeniorCare facilities, including in one facility where 98 percent of residents were infected).

“The only thing COVID did was rip the doors open,” Chris Brown, a CNA working in Chicago, said during the hearing, testifying that staffing and PPE shortages were a problem in nursing homes prior to the pandemic. “It blasted the doors open of a system that was already failing.”

Atlanta-based SavaSeniorCare is targeted in the congressional investigation because of their long history of problems including a pending Medicare Fraud case in Tennessee.  Rubin Schron expanded his interests with the $1.3 billion acquisition of about 175 nursing homes from Mariner Health Care, Inc., which were subsequently leased to and operated by SavaSeniorCare.  SAVA operates 209 SNFs and five ALFs in 21 states with a total of 24,908 beds as of December 31, 2017, making it one of the largest SNF operators in the United States. Mr. Schron effectively owns most of the equity in Sava through Cammeby’s outstanding loans to Sava.

The former Mariner properties are master leased to SAVA subsidiaries and each property, in turn, is subleased to separate entities, subject to an operating lease. After Tony Oglesby’s sudden death, Jerry Roles took over as the CEO of SAVA. The rest of the management team includes Tim Schindler (President and Chief Operating Officer since May 2017) and Kevin Seramur (Executive Vice President and CFO)
and Stefano Miele (Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary).

SavaSeniorCare is a named party in ongoing litigation focused on violations of federal law. Cases of note include United States ex
rel. Hayward v. SavaSeniorCare, LLC, alleging that SAVA knowingly and routinely submitted false claims to Medicare for
rehabilitation therapy services that were not medically reasonable or necessary. In addition, SAVA and related entities were defendants in a previously settled lawsuit alleging that SAVA and other parties took illegal kickbacks to refer their residents to Omnicare for pharmacy services. The United States entered into a settlement agreement with SAVA, and other related parties. The settlement agreement required the defendants to pay a sum of $14.0 million to the United States. Somehow they keep operating…

Annaliese Impink, corporate counsel for the national for-profit chain said:

“While we will likely cooperate, we are weighing our options and will determine our next steps.”

Sava has 13 nursing homes across Georgia and 4 in South Carolina. At Roselane Health and Rehabilitation Center in Marietta, 99 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 died. At Sandy Springs Health and Rehabilitation, 66 have tested positive and 13 have died, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health. Sava nursing homes in other states have also had major outbreaks and large numbers of deaths, including almost all of its facilities in Maryland and Michigan, according to federal data. At one Pennsylvania facility, 173 residents were infected, and 48 died.

“We know that this is an unsettling and scary time for our residents and the community,” SavaSeniorCare Consulting LLC Chief Experience Officer Annaliese Impink wrote in a statement emailed to 7 On Your Side. “We understand and greatly appreciate family members’ concern for their loved ones and are doing everything in our power to keep our residents safe and protected.”

SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services LLC, the company that issued the statement, provides management services to nursing homes, and is based in Atlanta.

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