Nursing Homes Requesting Waivers so they Can Provide Substandard Care? Victimizing the Elderly

shlomorally-3

 

More Than Half Of California Nursing Homes Balk At Stricter Staffing Rules

More than half of California’s nursing homes are asking to be exempted from new state regulations that would require them to spend more time directly caring for their patients.

The state’s new staffing requirements for nursing homes, quietly passed in last year’s budget bill, seem universally unpopular. Patient advocates say the new regulations don’t go far enough and that residents remain at risk in poorly staffed homes. Nursing home operators say they can’t hire enough staff to comply.

Under the new rules, which took effect in July but haven’t yet been enforced, skilled nursing facilities must provide at least 3.5 hours of direct care per resident per day, up from 3.2 hours of care previously. That care can range from inserting a feeding tube to changing an adult diaper or helping residents with eating and bathing.

The California Department of Public Health, which oversees nursing homes, is expected to announce in late January which — if any — facilities it will exempt from the new regulations. But some patient advocates don’t like the nursing homes’ balking.

 

“We’re appalled by the waiver system. It’s sending the worst possible message to California nursing homes that it’s OK to staff at levels that endanger residents,” said Mike Connors of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a consumer advocacy group.

(Check to see which California nursing homes have applied for workforce shortage waivers here and here.)

Researchers have strongly linked more nursing staff with better care, with some experts recommending from 3.8 to 4.1 hours of care per patient per day as a bare minimum for quality nursing home care. Having enough staff helps prevent falls, pressure sores and other problems that can land fragile seniors in the hospital.

A recent Kaiser Health News investigation found that for years nursing homes nationwide overstated staffing to the federal government. Now, nursing homes are required to report actual payroll records to remain eligible for Medicare and Medicaid payments.

During the first three months of 2018, 58 percent of California’s skilled nursing facilities averaged at least 3.5 hours of patient care a day, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of payroll records submitted to the federal government. That rose to 76 percent when including nursing homes where administrators also were counted.

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Elder Care – Inadequate Care and Staffing Alleged in Lawsuits Filed

OPINION CONTRIBUTOR:

How Long Can this State Sanctioned Complicity with Human Rights Violations Continue 

As long as Governor Cuomo’s reprehensible Department of Health /Public Health & Health Planning Commission continue to license & enable mafia-like consortia that do harm to the most vulnerable without accountability, this agency and NY State are de facto sponsors of human rights violations.  

What allows so-called long term care providers to determine that understaffing is ethical as old, frail and dying people are left unattended?

What does it take to embarrass NY Lawmakers and the Executive in the richest state in the richest country in the world into vigilance & moral decency?

LM Note to Readers: SentosaCare is the subject of not only an expose published by ProPublica in 2015, but an ongoing litigation against the freelance authors for libel, regarding the content of that article.   The law firm representing the Sentosa Plaintiffs in that case is the same firm representing the Plaintiff’s in the case against LostMessiah’s primary blogger.

Two city nursing homes sued for inadequate care and staffing

The lawsuits allege that understaffing at the facilities has led to infections and unsanitary conditions

A New York law firm filed two class-action lawsuits today against two New York City nursing homes affiliated with Sentosa Care, a large for-profit nursing home group. The lawsuits, brought on behalf of a former patient and the surviving brother of another patient, allege that understaffing at the facilities has led to infections, unsanitary conditions and other examples of inadequate care in violation of state and federal law.

The lawsuits name as defendants the Bronx-based Bay Park Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in the Bronx and Brooklyn-based Seagate Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, all the owners of the facilities and Sentosa Care itself.

“We’ve gotten many, many complaints from residents [of these facilities] about the horrendous conditions people were left in,” said Jeremiah Frei-Pearson, a partner in the law firm Finkelstein, Blankinship, Frei-Pearson and Garber, which represents the patients in both cases. “People were left in urine and waste for way too long. Federal data also corroborated that these homes are horrific and our own investigation corroborated the conditions.”

Sentosa Care, the subject of a 2015 exposé by ProPublica highlighting low quality ratings at many of its facilities, has nevertheless expanded in New York in other states in recent years. Sentosa Care had at least 25 facilities and nearly 5,400 beds statewide as of 2015, according to ProPublica, but it’s unclear how many New York facilities are affiliated with the network now. In January the Grand Healthcare System sought state approval to purchase two Long Island nursing homes affiliated with Sentosa.

Sherard Clark, the main plaintiff in the case against Bay Park, alleged that he had an open wound on his foot while he was a resident at the nursing home earlier this year, and that the wound got infected multiple times because of a lack of attention from staff. He was often left to change his own bandages and even overheard a doctor reprimanding a nurse for not attending to it, Clark charged in the complaint. When he contracted a staph infection, the home didn’t take the necessary measures to treat it or schedule an appointment with a podiatrist, he added. Clark was also left attached to an empty IV multiple times, and on one occasion, when he attempted to remove it himself, he passed out and fell, hurting his head, according to the complaint.

New York law doesn’t mandate specific patient-to-staff ratios in its hospitals and nursing homes. But Frei-Pearson said, in addition to damages, he plans to seek court orders requiring “sufficient” staffing at both homes to maintain quality care. His law firm has had some success seeking such staff improvements in the past. Earlier this year the law firm reached a settlement of a class action suit against a Syracuse nursing home that included a commitment to boost staffing.

To read the remainder of the article in Crain’s New York Business click here.

The Buffalo News Reporting On The Deplorable Treatment of Nursing Home Patients –

The Philanthropists that Own These Nursing Homes.. When Nursing Care Becomes More about Care than about Profit, Perhaps the Moshiach Will Come..

AS OUT-OF-TOWN INVESTORS BUY WNY NURSING HOMES, RESIDENTS PAY THE PRICE

Since 2007, one-third of the 47 nursing homes in Erie and Niagara have been bought by out-of-towners. For thousands of vulnerable nursing home residents, that hasn’t been good.

The son of Frank L. Williams stared at bedsores his 82-year-old father developed at a nursing home in the Town of Tonawanda. He thought his father had contracted “the Black Plague.”

Doctors cut away Williams’ rotting flesh, but the infection had spread too far. Williams died.

At a Buffalo nursing home, workers failed to disinfect a glucose meter as they drew blood from one resident after another, including two with bloodborne diseases.

That put up to 30 residents’ health at risk and resulted in an $85,925 fine, one of the biggest penalties imposed on a nursing home in the state.

The Tonawanda and Buffalo nursing homes aren’t owned locally. They’re operated by companies owned by Judy Landa and partners. A Long Island resident, Landa has never worked in the health care industry and has no day-to-day involvement in the four nursing homes her companies own in Erie County, a spokesman said. Records and interviews show some of these nursing homes have cut staff to save money, while taking on high-need patients that bring in bigger reimbursements.

Out-of-town investors are buying up nursing homes in Erie and Niagara counties, and for thousands of vulnerable nursing home residents, that hasn’t been good. Since 2007, one-third of the 47 nursing homes in Erie and Niagara have been bought by out-of-towners. The government gives most of those 16 nursing homes low marks.

Out-of-town, for-profit owners operate eight of the 10 local nursing homes rated “much below average,” the federal government’s lowest rating. Many of the facilities owned by out-of-towners have a high rate of complaints that led to citations. Most have low scores for the amount of time nurses spend with residents. As a group, they have received a disproportionate share of state and federal fines in the last decade.

At least half of the 16 nursing homes were poorly ranked before they were bought by out-of-town investors. But the ratings of six of the 16 homes dropped after they were sold, according to a Buffalo News analysis of a decade of ratings. Only one saw its ratings improve.

Few families are safe from the threat of poor nursing home care. A Rand Corp. study estimates more than half of older Americans will end up spending time in nursing homes. Across the country, more than 1.3 million people are in nursing homes, with more than 100,000 in New York State and approximately 7,000 in Erie and Niagara.

Taxpayers have a huge stake, too. Just in Erie and Niagara counties, more than half a billion dollars was paid by taxpayers to nursing homes in 2016, according to the most recent figures for the state’s Medicaid program and estimates on federal Medicare spending.

The history of nursing homes linked to Judy Landa, where one resident was beaten to death and another died falling from a third-floor window, is a case study on what can go wrong as out-of-town investors take over facilities in Western New York.

“Operating a high-quality nursing home is not easy, but many owners can get that done,” said Tony Szczygiel, a retired University at Buffalo Law School professor who specialized in elder law. “What is hard to understand is why well-financed, experienced out-of-town owners can’t do that after buying local nursing homes.”

Added Szczygiel: “Is this the best they can do? Provide care that repeatedly fails to meet minimum standards?”

Husband and wife team

Judy Landa, 65, is a passive investor in the four Erie County nursing homes, according to Mark Weiss, a spokesman for her husband, Benjamin Landa. He said Landa is a great-grandmother who spends her days praying at the Queens grave of a revered rabbi, shopping for her eight children and 18 grandchildren, and running her home in Lawrence, N.Y., which public records say is worth $2.1 million.

Benjamin Landa, 62, has ownership interest in more than 120 nursing homes across the country and runs SentosaCare, New York’s largest for-profit nursing home chain. He served from 1996 to 2005 on the state Department of Health’s Public Health and Health Planning Council, which votes on nursing home sales.

Landa isn’t involved in running the Erie County nursing homes that his wife has an ownership interest in, his spokesman said.

The son of Holocaust survivors, Benjamin Landa is a devout Orthodox Jew with a passion for educating young people about the Holocaust. He donates millions of dollars to charities, Jewish schools and others, Weiss said. He doesn’t wear jewelry, doesn’t have a driver, doesn’t belong to country clubs or go to spas, his spokesman said.

In July 2012, the state Health Department appointed a Benjamin Landa company as receiver of Hawthorne Health and Harbour Health nursing homes, two Buffalo facilities that had been losing money under the ownership of a nonprofit, Presbyterian Senior Care of Western New York Inc. As receiver for about a year, his company ran the two homes on Delaware Avenue – which were renamed Emerald South Rehabilitation and Care Center and Emerald North Rehabilitation and Care Center.

At one of the homes, Landa’s company cut staff and other expenses to save about $1 million, according to Health Department records. The company also increased revenues by admitting “difficult to discharge” patients from Erie County Medical Center. Their need for increased care resulted in higher Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements to the nursing homes, the records show.

Seventeen months later, a company owned by Judy Landa and a New York City area partner bought the operations of the two nursing homes from Presbyterian Senior Care for $2.6 million.

The real estate – the land and the buildings – was bought separately by a Benjamin Landa company for $1.6 million, according to Erie County property records. As part of the deal, his wife’s company agreed to pay $260,000 a year in rent to her husband’s company, according to state records.

In 2016 financial reports to the state, the two nursing homes indicated that the rent obligation had nearly doubled in three years, to almost a half million dollars a year.

Benjamin Landa’s spokesman acknowledged that the rent may have increased but said Landa has not collected it. Landa has not received any rental payments from his wife’s companies for Emerald South and Emerald North, Weiss said.

The same financial reports indicated both nursing homes were losing money. Emerald South had a net loss of $988,367 in 2016, it said. Emerald North had a net loss of $628,374.

‘Not drawn a penny’

Benjamin Landa said in a statement to The News that he and his wife have not collected a dime from the two nursing homes.

He denied he has profited from Buffalo-area nursing homes while reducing services to the residents.

“I resent being linked to this practice,” he said.

“I have not drawn a penny since I purchased the properties. In fact, I have spent millions of dollars subsidizing the facilities which my wife, Judy, owns in order to keep them from closing. Needless to say, Judy Landa has not drawn any money from these facilities either. Combined, we have invested millions of dollars since the purchase.”

He blamed the government for the troubles at Emerald South and Emerald Northsaying it does not adequately compensate nursing homes for the care they provide.

“The community must recognize that Emerald North and South are running at a loss due to the state’s grossly unfair Medicaid reimbursement schedule for area facilities. As such, there are simply no profits to be had,” Benjamin Landa said. “The not-for-profits got rid of them because they could not keep these facilities running against the backdrop of a tough regulatory environment and this unrealistic level of state reimbursement. All cost-cutting steps have been taken to keep the doors open in order to serve the critical needs of the community.

“Because of our many years of experience in the nursing home industry, we had every reason to believe that over time we could re-establish these facilities as viable and valued resources within their respective neighborhoods. At each turn, though, we have been met with unreasonable lawsuits on the part of an overly aggressive local law firm and what some refer to euphemistically as an  anti-downstate, anti-New York City prejudice which has been the cause of great frustration for me and the members of my family,” he said.

Judy Landa did not respond to phone calls from The News.

In 2014, the Landas and business partners formed companies that bought two other nursing homes, Sheridan Manor in the Town of Tonawanda and Ridgeview Manor in Buffalo. The homes were renamed Safire Rehabilitation of Northtowns and Safire Rehabilitation of Southtowns.

Deadly incidents

Among the four nursing homes linked to the Landas in Erie County, the 122-bed Emerald South stands out.

On June 4, William Strasner, 87, a patient in the Emerald South dementia unit, fell to his death while trying to escape out his third-floor window.

Strasner used a rope fashioned from bed sheets and clothing in an attempt to lower himself about 34 feet into the facility’s parking lot at 1175 Delaware Ave. Buffalo police detectives determined his death was accidental.

The state Health Department, which is also investigating the death, recommended the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services fine the facility. The federal agency is also considering denying Emerald South taxpayer payments for new admissions.

Strasner’s death occurred about two years after Ruth Murray, 82, was beaten to death while she was a patient in Emerald South’s dementia unit.

An 84-year-old man also in the unit attacked Murray after she mistakenly wandered into his room on Aug. 26, 2016. Murray died three days later.

Her attacker was ruled mentally incompetent and not criminally charged. The Health Department fined Emerald South $10,000, in part, for failing to provide adequate supervision.

Following Strasner’s death, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services designated Emerald South a “special focus facility.” This rarely applied designation identifies nursing homes that demonstrate a consistent inability to adhere to quality of care standards and have a history of “practices that have resulted in harm to residents,” according to the Health Department. Special focus facilities are subject to extra Health Department inspections.

Strasner’s death, and subsequent protests about conditions at Emerald South by workers, prompted Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Aug. 23 to call on the state to appoint a receiver to operate the home.

“The current situation at Emerald South is unacceptable and is obviously placing residents in danger,” he said.

Emerald South isn’t the only nursing home in Erie and Niagara counties that has been fined. More than two-thirds – 71 percent – of the state fines given in the past decade went to homes run by out-of-region owners.

Absentee owners 

The month before Benjamin Landa’s company took over the two Buffalo nursing homes as receiver in 2012, Emerald South was rated a four-star, or “above average,” home by the federal government. Emerald North was rated “average,” or three stars.

Today, Emerald South and Emerald North are rated as two- and one-star facilities – “below average” and “much below average.”

When companies owned by Judy Landa and her partners took over as operators of Safire Southtowns and Safire Northtowns in 2014, the homes were both rated as two stars. Today, the federal government rates Safire Southtowns as a two-star home and Safire Northtowns as a one-star.

Szczygiel, the elder law specialist who visits area nursing homes, says residents in low-rated nursing homes deserve better.

“When a facility allows its practices to fall below acceptable levels, the residents have nowhere to go to get away from the problems that result,” he said. “This means personal needs cannot be met, personal dignity is lost and occasionally tragedies result.”

Virginia Holt, who worked 42 years at Emerald South washing clothes and linens, said she doesn’t remember either of the Landas visiting Emerald South since shortly after their purchase five years ago.

“When they first bought the place I saw Ben Landa, but I haven’t seen him since. I never saw Judy Landa,” said Holt, who retired in April.

“I understand that they are out of town, but at least show up every three or four months. Walk around, talk to the staff and the residents,” Holt said.

Benjamin Landa spokesman Weiss said Benjamin Landa has never visited Emerald South. He said he couldn’t say if Judy Landa has.

Risky business model

State records show that when companies run by the Landas bought their first two Buffalo nursing homes, they had a playbook. They would save hundreds of thousands of dollars by cutting staffing at Emerald South and Emerald North and boost taxpayer reimbursements by accepting residents who needed more health care.

That business model is cause for concern, Szczygiel said.

“You have a smaller staff but residents with higher needs. The staff time required by the higher-need residents reduces the amount of staff time for all the other residents, and studies have shown that the amount of staff time per resident is highly correlated with quality of care,” he said.

The strategy was spelled out in applications for state approval filed by companies Judy Landa co-owned.

As the receiver for Emerald South, Benjamin Landa’s company cut staffing levels for a savings of $677,667, according to the application. Another $300,000 was saved by trimming other expenses.

In the Emerald North application, $401,993 in savings were projected by reducing staff and spending less on supplies.

Applications for both Emerald facilities also detailed how revenues had increased because of an “exclusive contract” with Erie County Medical Center to accept the hospital’s patients who are considered difficult to discharge. Those patients, who require greater levels of care, brought in higher reimbursements paid by Medicaid and Medicare.

At Safire Northtowns and Safire Southtowns, Judy Landa and her partners did not propose cutting staff or admitting higher-need residents in their applications to New York.

But some common business strategies emerged.

The business was split from the property: Companies formed by Judy Landa and four New York City area partners became the Safire operators; companies formed by Benjamin Landa and the same four partners bought the land and buildings. They paid $9.3 million for the real estate, public records show.

The Safire companies were to pay $58,008 a year in rent, according to the applications to the state.

But in 2016, the rents had increased to $1.2 million a year for the two Safire homes, according to financial statements filed with the state.

Meanwhile, the Safire homes were cutting staff, according to workers and union officials.

Tanya Goffe, a certified nursing aide and 1199SEIU union delegate at the 100-bed Safire Northtowns, said that there has been a steady reduction in nursing staff since the Landas and partners bought the nursing home.

The number of licensed practical nurses and certified nursing aides at Safire Northtowns dropped from 80 to 38, according to Theresa Lyman, administrative organizer for the union.

Goffe said she once had to care for 40 Safire Northtowns residents by herself during a seven-hour shift.

The current average amount of time a certified nursing aide spends with each patient per day at Safire Northtowns is 89 minutes. The state average is 133 minutes, according to the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare website.

The shortage of nursing staff is not a problem just at Safire Northtowns. It is common at other nursing homes in Erie and Niagara counties that are owned by out-of-region investors.

In the two counties, for-profit, out-of-town owners run 12 of the 15 homes where nurses spend the fewest minutes per day with residents.

DA investigating

The problems at Emerald South and Emerald North extend beyond patient care.

“Paychecks have bounced and insurance benefits have been canceled, despite the fact that employees have had pay deducted from their salaries for these benefits,” said Todd Hobler, vice president of 1199SEIU.

Weiss, the spokesman for Benjamin Landa, said the two Emerald nursing homes switched health insurers and a gap in coverage occurred. He said no deductions for the insurance were made from workers’ pay stubs during the gap.

The union disputes that.

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn told The News his office is investigating what happened to the payroll deductions and has sought assistance from the state Attorney General’s Office.

Hobler, the union official, says the way management at Emerald South and Emerald North treats workers affects nursing home residents.

“It results in turnover with people leaving the jobs at the Emeralds for positions that are more secure. Ultimately you can’t staff a facility when you are mistreating the people providing the care,” Hobler said.

Daniel Tracy, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease and uses a wheelchair, resides in Emerald South. Tracy cannot feed himself and is barely able to speak. In recent months, he sent Facebook messages twice to one friend begging her to visit and feed him because, he says, the staff forgot.

He blames both the owners and the staff at Emerald South for his poor care.

“Emerald South is not only understaffed, it’s run by people who don’t really care about the residents …” he wrote in an email to The News. “The staff see how the administration is running this place and they do the exact same thing – do as little as possible for an eight-hour day and will hide in a room to make sure they don’t have to do anything.”

Please view the article in its original format by clicking here.

Landa, Sentosa and a Suit Because Someone (smart) Refused to Sell

THE DECISION TO NOT SELL… THE MCGUIRE GROUP

Some of the most vulnerable patients in world are those who are placed in nursing homes, often unable to speak for themselves, defend themselves, care for themselves or prevent others from neglecting them. 

One of the most lucrative businesses is the ownership of nursing homes and nursing care facilities. Money comes in from patients, Medicare, Medicaid, other Federal and State programs, private donors, private money, contracts, kickbacks and the list goes on.

Like Brius care in California, we fear that some of the largest conglomerates of nursing homes in New York and surrounding areas are owned not by those out to care for the elderly, but those out to profit from each bed filled.

The following is an article about a suit filed by Benjamin Landa and a group of downstate partners who came only too close to purchasing a group of Western New York nursing home.

We do not believe that the decision to “not sell” a nursing home can be deemed anti-Semitism and we certainly hope that the Courts see what is happening here. Unjust enrichment? Likely not.

 

Long Island man sues McGuire Group for refusing to sell 5 Buffalo nursing homes

Three years ago, Long Island resident Benjamin Landa and a group of downstate partners came close to buying seven nursing homes, including five of the Buffalo area’s top-rated facilities.

But the deal fell apart, and Landa is now suing the McGuire Group, the suburban Buffalo company that refused to sell him the homes.

Landa alleged in his 2016 lawsuit that F. James McGuire, chief executive officer of the family-owned facilities, backed out of the $45 million deal that year, in part because Landa is “an orthodox Jew from New York.”

The McGuire Group, which operates five nursing homes in Erie and Niagara counties, succeeded in having the allegation of anti-Semitism removed from the pending lawsuit. But a State Supreme Court judge in Brooklyn allowed Landa to continue his allegation of  “unjust enrichment” against McGuire and the company.

[RELATED: As out-of-town investors buy Western New York nursing homes, residents pay the price]

The lawsuit says the McGuire Group backed out of a deal to sell Autumn View Health Care in Hamburg; Garden Gate Health Care in Cheektowaga; Harris Hill Nursing Facility in Lancaster; North Gate Health Care in Wheatfield; Seneca Health Care in West Seneca; Brookhaven Health Care in East Patchogue; and Autumn Woods Residential Health in Warren, Mich.

Five of the six nursing homes in New York state are rated as five-star facilities, or “far above average,” the best designation given by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The lawsuit was filed in 2016 during a time when out-of-region investors have been buying up Buffalo-area nursing homes. In the past 11 years, downstate residents have purchased 16 of the 47 nursing homes in Erie and Niagara counties.

Benjamin Landa’s wife, Judy, has an ownership interest in four of those nursing homes. Two of the facilities rated  “far below average,” the lowest designation awarded by the federal centers, and two are rated “below average.”

In his suit, Benjamin Landa alleges McGuire misled him into believing he would be able to buy the nursing homes if Landa found a buyer for the McGuire Group’s pharmacy, which supplied medications to its nursing homes. The pharmacy was sold, Landa said, but McGuire backed out of selling the nursing homes.

In an interview, McGuire cited “unresolved issues after tiring months of negotiations” for the decision not to sell to Landa.

McGuire did not explain in legal papers why he did not sell the nursing homes to Landa and his partners. But in a counter-claim, he alleged Landa breached a confidentiality clause during the negotiations and caused some key McGuire employees to resign.

Instead of selling to Landa’s group, the McGuire Group in 2016 sold a 19.8 percent ownership stake in its nursing homes to VestraCare, a New York City area firm.

Why did McGuire consider selling the nursing homes in the first place?

“We have as many as 14 partners among our group of nursing homes, many of whom are of retirement age. Some of my older siblings are in their sixties and some of our partners were interested in liquidity and diversification,” McGuire said. “It is an incredibly challenging business and not all partners have the same tolerance for the challenges.”

Story topics: 

Please view the original article in and its contents by clicking here.

 

State Panel Pulls Plug on the Upper West Side Nursing Home Project – A Win for NY

A state appeals panel has yanked the permit to build an Upper West Side nursing home, a controversial project with the mayor’s support.

Neighbors of the 20-story Jewish Home Lifecare project at 125 W. 97th St. had sued to block construction, arguing the area is already too densely populated.

In 2016, the mayor’s ­Office of Sustainability greenlit the project, even though a state environmental review had expressed concern about noise and hazardous material related to planned construction.

But on Tuesday the Appellate Division put the kibosh on the plan, saying it violated zoning regulations about open space.

Opinion: Joseph Zupnik, CCRN, Focus Rehab and Not Really Justice

THE DAILY STAR: http://www.thedailystar.com/opinion/editorials/in-our-opinion-focus-case-doesn-t-feel-like-justice/article_4eb8ce4e-a61a-54bc-9f61-12579556b3e1.html

In Our Opinion: Focus case doesn’t feel like justice

 

The news that two executives of the former Focus Otsego nursing home pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges on Wednesday left us feeling a little flat.

Joseph Zupnik, majority owner of CCRN Operator LLC, the corporation that held the ownership certificate for Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Otsego, and Daniel Herman, a high-level manager, both pleaded guilty in town of Otsego court to second-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a misdemeanor. The charge was in reference to a 94-year-old woman who was left in a recliner for nearly 41 hours in 2016.

A felony complaint, filed by the state Attorney General’s office, alleged that Focus staff did not provide the woman with required care, feeding and other services, and that she developed a pressure sore as a result.

Zupnik and Herman originally faced charges of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony, and two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a misdemeanor.

Each defendant also was also charged under Public Health Law with three counts of willful violation of health laws, a misdemeanor.

Under terms of the plea agreement, both men will be required to pay a fine and perform community service. Town of Otsego Justice Gary Kuch will announce the severity of those penalties during a sentencing hearing, set for Oct. 10. State Prosecutor Kathleen Boland mentioned during Wednesday’s plea proceeding that $1 million will be paid back to Medicaid by the corporation, CCRN.

The state’s separate eight-count felony complaint against CCRN will be taken to the Otsego County Court on Sept. 24.

The complaint laid out a pattern of behavior that promoted profit over care during CCRN’s management of the facility, which has since changed hands.

“Upon taking ownership and control of the home’s operation in October 2014, Zupnik, Herman and CCRN cut staff payroll, cut staffing, and cut other necessary services and supplies needed to provide safe and adequate care to more than 200 individual residents who were in the care of Focus through at least November 29, 2016, when Focus was designated as a Special Focus Facility by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services,” the complaint dated May 24 said.

The defendants received but disregarded many communications from senior staff “that residents were at risk for harm,” plus warnings from outside sources, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Four staff members were previously convicted by guilty pleas, admitting to neglect and falsification of records.

A misdemeanor conviction, coupled with a fine and a term of community service, seems like a slap on the wrist. A clawback of $1 million from the corporation is significant, but it does not promote individual accountability.

We can take some comfort from the likelihood that Zupnik and Herman are out of the health care business.

 

Continue reading here.

 

Philip Esformes, Jerome Allen and a Kid who Would (not?) have Made it on his own…

Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes to recruit a student-athlete. How good was the player to begin with?

Stats, interviews, and recruiting rankings from Morris Esformes’ career show the big picture

 

In the immediate aftermath of allegations that former Penn men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen accepted bribes to designate Morris Esformes as a recruited student-athlete and increase his odds of admission, questions have arisen around one key issue: the qualifications of Esformes as a basketball recruit.

Morris Esformes

The indictment against Morris’ father, Philip, alleges that Morris “would not have been designated as a ‘recruited basketball player’ had it not been for the kickback and bribe payments” that Philip provided to Allen. Philip’s attorney, Howard Srebnick, has rigorously defended the Esformes family from such allegations, stating that Morris Esformes was qualified to get into Penn on his own academic and athletic merits.

Srebnick, who graduated from Penn in 1985, told The Miami Herald, “[Morris] scored more than 150 points higher on his SAT than I did, and I cannot dribble a basketball with either hand, much less sink a three-point shot.”

As the situation unfolds, a glaring question remains: would Morris Esformes have been recruited by Penn men’s basketball without any intervention from his father? The Daily Pennsylvanian looked to Esformes’ past in search of answers.

In 2015, Esformes graduated from RASG Hebrew Academy in Miami, Florida before being admitted to Penn.

While he was never listed on the Penn men’s basketball roster, he appeared in a July 2015 press release by the athletic department about the Class of 2019 recruits. Additionally, it is known that Esformes verbally committed to Penn in March 2014, strongly suggesting that Esformes received designation as a “recruited student-athlete.”

oth RASG Hebrew Academy Dean of Academic Affairs Avi Bossewitch and Penn’s Admissions Department did not respond to interview requests.

Various other key figures connected to Esformes also did not comment. Besides Morris Esformes and Jerome Allen, the following people either declined or did not respond to interview requests: two of Esformes’ teammates from his senior season of high school basketball, Morris’ high school head coach, the then-head coach of a rival team in RASG Hebrew Academy’s district, a Jewish Hoops America reporter, three former Penn men’s basketball assistants who were at Penn during Morris’ high school career, and head coaches at two other Division I schools that Future150 reported that Morris had been interested in. Another coach of a Division I school Esformes reportedly was interested in responded that he had never heard of him “as a recruit, or otherwise.”

Esformes has a player profile on ESPN, though ESPN’s Class of 2015 recruiting rankings did not list him on their leaderboard of the top players in Florida, meaning that his player ranking was lower than two stars out of five. According to ESPN, players who have two stars “are overmatched versus the better players in the nation. These players have weaknesses that will be exposed against top competition, but have the ability to develop into solid contributors at the mid-major Division I level.”

Of the three other players in Esformes’ recruiting class at Penn to have graduated high school in 2015, all three appeared on their state’s respective list. However, it is not unprecedented for Penn to take chances on recruits who have yet to earn such credentials on a national level. Penn men’s basketball rising seniors Max Rothschild and Tyler Hamilton, who both graduated high school in 2014, did not appear on ESPN’s state leaderboards in 2014.

Esformes’ high school, RASG Hebrew Academy, had a significantly weaker basketball program than the schools most Penn recruits come from. Although Esformes had solid statistics — according to The Miami Herald, he averaged 15.5 points and 5.0 assists per game as a senior — his school’s low strength of schedule during his senior season contributed to it having a national ranking of 7,775, according to MaxPreps’ computer rankings.

By comparison, among the active Penn men’s basketball rising seniors, Jake Silpe’s Cherry Hill East (NJ) team was ranked 736th nationally during his senior year, Hamilton’s Greater Atlanta Christian squad was 255th, and Jackson Donahue’s and Collin McManus’ Northfield Mount Hermon (NH) was 217th. Only Max Rothschild’s University (IL) squad was anywhere near RASG Hebrew Academy, at 3,245.

Another potential indicator of Esformes’ skills could be his postseason honors. In both his junior and senior years of high school, he was named to the Jewish Hoops America honorable mention team.

Of the combined 11 seniors who were chosen over Esformes for JHA’s first, second, or third team in 2014-15, none ever played D-I basketball. The only player of any age to eventually make a D-I roster from a JHA team was Cornell’s Bryan Knapp, who was a high school sophomore at the time.

Additionally, Esformes finished his senior year ranked 17th in scoring out of players on Miami-Dade County’s lower-division teams, encompassing Division 2A schools through 5A. Online searches revealed that only five of the 16 players above him have been on a Division I roster at any point, and no one scoring at or fewer than Esformes’ 15.5 points per game was ever on a D-I roster.

“I mean, I didn’t think he was ever Division I necessarily caliber,” Adam Barnes, a basketball trainer who worked with Esformes in 2013, said about the student. “He wasn’t gonna get a scholarship probably. But when you’re an academic kid like he was, a lot of places will take you as a walk-on, you know, just to help out,” he added.

“When I heard he was actually going to Penn, I didn’t think it was even anything to do with basketball.”

 

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