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Investigative Reporting Uncovers Problems With Nursing Home Ownership

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Nursing Home Chain Failures Highlight a Greater Need for Ownership Regulation and Closer Government Review

Some of the most troubling elder abuse and neglect stories stemmed from nursing home private ownership in the U.S. recently emerged thanks to an NBC News investigation featuring a man named Joseph Schwartz and his responsibilities over nursing home and long-term care facility chain, Skyline Healthcare. The mogul swiftly built his empire out of a small New Jersey office and then across the Midwest. It failed miserably leaving life-long pain and suffering for more 7,000 elderly Americans in more than 100 facilities in 11 states.

Massachusetts: Schwartz told staff there was no more money to fund all of his nursing homes or to pay them. The care team was buying toilet paper with personal funds to help residents. Patients were left for days in their feces due to staffing cuts and no one to help them. When some of the homes closed, 60 residents had nowhere to go, and family members were left uninformed of their loved one’s displacement. In March of 2019, the final three former Skyline Healthcare nursing homes in Massachusetts were closed and placed in receivership after Schwartz agreed to surrender licenses.

Arkansas: Just after six months of Skyline’s openings in the Arkansas market, the state’s attorney general was already investigating reports of neglect. Serious complaints about lack of food and nutrition and resident fall injuries rocked the Skyline facilities. Understaffing was common, and one of the homes had five owners in just six years. Schwartz was hit with more than $200,000 in civil fines for neglect, preventable falls, failure to bathe residents, and maggot larvae found breeding in a resident’s medical device equipment.

South Dakota: Schwartz worked with Georgia-based Golden Living Centers and leased about six homes from around the nation to them in which he placed blame on due to the ongoing neglect of his poorly run nursing homes. Many staff and community leaders felt scammed by him after 19 facilities in the state came to the brink of running out of food and medical supplies.

Tennessee: Skyline took over operations at Ashton Place, a nursing home in Memphis housed by mostly low-income residents receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds. According to local police reports, within 60 days, “a resident with a recent leg amputation was taken from the nursing home, where he was found lying in feces, to a hospital, where nurses discovered maggots and gangrene in his leg.” The man died two days later, and the state and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) soon began to investigate prompting the termination of its Medicare certification and also at another Skyline home. A third Tennessee Skyline property followed these terminations in 2018.

A CMS spokesperson confirmed Joseph Schwartz still retains an ownership stake in more than 50 U.S. nursing homes and now his son, Louis, owns a separate company and chain of homes also facing alleged abuse and neglect and endangering residents. That company is called Andover Subacute Care II.

This story and special investigation by NBC documents major systemic failures of state and federal authorities to keep up with nursing home facility ownership and accountability.

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti encourage our blog readers to view the NBC investigation and reflect on and share their conclusions.

Bad Behavior Has Become a Slap on the Wrist Under Current Policies

Fines for problematic nursing homes went down 34 percent last year, and consequences have most definitely weakened while the government keeps pumping out money and support for new homes like Skyline to simply pop up. Most of these homes operate using taxpayer dollars with not much initial screening or oversight regarding ownership history or financial status.

The current administration likely isn’t helping the problem. The number of nursing home contracts terminated by CMS has declined and fines for the most troubled nursing homes reduced to a mere $10,000 in some cases. That is pocket change for someone like Schwartz, who was receiving more than a few hundred million dollars in taxpayer money from Medicare and Medicaid each year to stay operating and opening new facilities. And when that didn’t work out, quick facility sales and receivership came into play, leaving residents to continue fumbling through the poor care provided at an already struggling home.

Families Should Question Facility Ownership Changes

In some of these nursing home sales, ownership of the facility is being transferred to real estate investment trusts vs. people who know how to run a skilled nursing facility or long-term care home. When this happens, questionable ownership and mismanagement can lead to abuse, neglect, and severe lulls in the supply of:

  • food
  • resources and care tools
  • medications
  • social activities
  • rehabilitation services
  • infrastructure updates
  • staffing
  • workers’ wages and benefits
  • wrongful evictions

While nursing homes can be evaluated by visiting the Nursing Home Compare website, the problem is that the group or company that owns the facility isn’t always ranked or tracked the same way, so it can be nearly impossible to determine if they have a negative operating history. Upon new ownership announcements, revisiting the same questions asked when first moving a loved one into a nursing home or skilled nursing facility will help.

Report Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Concerns Immediately

Levin & Perconti is one of the nation’s most recognized and respected leaders in the areas of elder abuse and nursing home negligence litigation and settled cases throughout the city of Chicago, surrounding suburbs, and the entire state of Illinois. Our nursing home attorneys know that many facilities routinely violate the law and treat residents poorly under a history of changing names or ownership and are guilty in providing false incident reports.

If you suspect neglect or abuse of a loved one in a nursing home, please contact us now for a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago at (312) 332-2872, or complete our online case evaluation form.