The Allure of a 2015 Guardianship and a Burial in the Wrong Cemetery, Excuses and Covid-19

Comedian Elayne Boosler visited her cousin Dorothea Buschell in Brooklyn’s Hamilton Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in August 2018.
Comedian Elayne Boosler visited her cousin Dorothea Buschell in Brooklyn’s Hamilton Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in August 2018.
Photo: Courtesy of Elayne Boosler

Dear Reader:

The following story, one partially told on Facebook and to The City by comedian Elayne Boosler, is a developing story and one we will cover in depth. When we started this blog in 2016 one of our goals was to draw attention to the deplorable treatment of the elderly and most vulnerable at the hands of nursing home owners and managers. Our intent was to uncover the depth of the depravity of some owners and managers of many of the world’s nursing homes, particularly those in New York and New Jersey, who choose profit over care, bottom lines over human life and lined pockets over dignity.

There can be no greater example of that choice than the story of Elayne Boosler’s elderly Jewish cousin who died in the care of an Allure nursing home, which had in 2015 obtained custodianship over Boosler’s cousin, despite the existence of a living relative. Ms. Boosler’s story is shocking insofar as her cousin was not only denied a dignified death but a dignified burial. While Covid-19 may have played a role in the absurdity of the story that follows, it does not tell the whole story and cannot be used to mitigate the responsibility of the owners/managers of the nursing home that not only deprived Ms. Boosler’s cousin of her family, but of a Jewish burial.

There can really be no greater indignity and no more astonishing tragedy.

When Ms. Boosler’s cousin died (allegedly) of Covid-19, instead of being buried in a Jewish cemetery with all of the Jewish rites and customs which had been provided to the nursing home, she was interred in a Christian cemetery at an astronomical fee.

Boosler’s story is not surprising to those of us who have been following nursing homes in general and Allure in particular. What is surprising, however, is the ease with which nursing homes can obtain guardianship over the elderly in their care.  As legal guardians, these nursing homes and long-term care/rehabilitation facilities have access to finances, decisions, medical choices and ultimately the life and death of those in their care. And most do not do the due diligence required before obtaining guardianship. Or, they simply falsify statements and records. Moreover, it is not even clear that such due diligence is ever required or if there is any oversight, particularly in New York where the systems in place have run amok.

Once guardianship is obtained whether legitimately or otherwise, as this story suggests, decision-making authority on burials and interment among all of the other life-shattering decisions, rests in the hands of the court-appointed guardians. They are free to throw caution and care to the wind.

The Boosler story, raises questions about New York’s Guardianship Services, which in the Boosler case, remains something of a mystery. We are hoping that some law enforcement agency will take the bull by the horns and look into this case as it is neither unique nor surprising. We are hoping that Boosler’s status as a entertainer will light a fire under those who should be investigating the treatment of the elderly in nursing care and long-term facilities.

There is money to be made in human life and in death and apparently once guardianship of a family member is “signed-over” to a nursing home moral and ethical compasses can shift. The elderly deserve better. 

 

Comedian’s Kin Sent to Wrong Cemetery After Brooklyn Nursing Home Death

Comedian Elayne Boosler says her elderly Jewish cousin, who died last month, inexplicably got saddled with a pricey Christian burial package while in a Brooklyn nursing home.

“Now my beautiful Jewish cousin is clutching rosary beads after a fake funeral that never — couldn’t have — happened because of coronavirus,” Boosler, who grew up in Sheepshead Bay, told THE CITY from her California home.

She noted that her first instinct was to “go for the funny and try not to bleed on my audience, if you will. Also, going for the joke is how I distance myself and my emotions.”

But she confessed she hasn’t slept in days.

“I am horrified at how she must have died,” she said, “at how she was swindled and at how she is now far from her family in a strange grave.”

‘Are You Sitting Down?’

The ordeal began, Boosler recalled, when her cousin Harriet Saltzman phoned her from Florida on April 14 and said, “Are you sitting down? Pull the chair closer to the table in case you fall over.”

Saltzman told her that she had been trying to reach their mutual first cousin Dorothea Buschell at the Hamilton Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to wish her a happy 83rd birthday.

When no one answered in Buschell’s room, Saltzman said she began leaving voicemails at the main number, but no one returned her calls for weeks.

Finally, on April 14, a frazzled staffer who happened to pick up the phone said, “Oh, no one called you yesterday? Uh, she died this morning.”

“And then Harriet said, ‘Why would someone have called yesterday if she died this morning?’,” Boosler said.

Buschell died April 13.

The Hamilton Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was blocking visitors during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Hamilton Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

By the time Saltzman called, Buschell’s body had already been transferred to Forest Green Park cemetery in Morganville, N.J. — not her intended, already-paid-for, family plot in New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale, L.I. She was buried on April 15.

“Because they figured it was the virus that she died from, there was no autopsy,” Saltzman wrote Boosler in an email. “She was double bagged, put into the coffin, doubled bagged again and shipped.”

Saltzman noted that Forest Green “will not be able to dis-inter her for a while because of the pandemic, and they will call me when they are ready to do it.”

The Plot Thickens

In a phone interview with THE CITY, Boosler added, “But wait. There’s more. Much more.”

The saga began in either late 2016 or early 2017, Boosler recounted, after Buschell, an artist who had taught English on U.S. Army bases in Italy for a quarter century, landed in Hamilton Park after a series of mini-strokes.

On April 28, 2017, she was sold an irrevocable $15,000 pre-need funeral plan which she never signed — and which Boosler stressed Buschell never would have consciously agreed to since she already had a family plot.

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California Nursing Homes and Raging Covid-19 Infections – Hiding the Truth, no Oversight

Residents of Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center are evacuated in April.
Residents of Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center are evacuated in April after staff refused to show for work amid a COVID-19 outbreak. A day earlier, state health inspectors found no problems at the facility in Riverside.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

As coronavirus raged through nursing homes, inspectors found nothing wrong

In early April, state inspectors completed a survey of Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside as part of a federal effort to make sure nursing homes were protecting elderly residents from the coronavirus.

Their one-page report concluded: “No deficiencies.”

The next day, April 8, a fleet of ambulances lined up outside Magnolia to evacuate all 83 residents after the staff refused to show up for work, terrified of the deadly infection already spreading within the facility.

Similar scenarios played out across California this spring, survey records show. Time and again, inspectors sent to assess nursing homes’ ability to contain the new virus found no deficiencies at facilities that were in the midst of deadly outbreaks or about to endure one.

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PE or Publicly Traded Equity Owned Nursing Facilities, Covid-19 And the Profit in Negligence – No Oversight

Granite Creek Health and Rehabilitation would never require a worker to come to work sick. But they might ask.
Granite Creek Health and Rehabilitation would never require a worker to come to work sick. But they might ask.
Google Maps

Dear Readers:

We will say it once. We can say it 1000 times.

Nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and elder care institutions are not burdened by appropriate oversight. In reality, they largely report to no one. And, with combined ownership on the real estate side and on the management/operations side in the hands of private equity firms and publicly traded companies, the flow of money is endless and nearly untraceable. 

These homes churn owners, in some cases so they can change oversight records, wiping the slate clean when abuse and neglect results in patient death. They collect money from the government in the form of payments, reimbursements and for some even PPP loans or SBA loans, which should trigger government oversight. But sadly oversight is simply in short supply. 

And alas, with front-facing ownership changes, history gets scrubbed. It is all a shell game; and one that traffics in human life. With Covid-19, these homes can profit from death. 

In many states, the owners of these facilities are largely exempt from liability, even in the case of gross negligence – a highly profitable exemption. And the politicians who have collected donations can look the other way as the owners profit and those most vulnerable die. Humanity be damned.  

State Investigating a Nursing Home That Allegedly Kept COVID-Positive Workers on the Job

A nursing assistant at a Prescott nursing home says she was told to continue to work with patients after informing her supervisor that she was symptomatic for COVID-19 — and also after she later tested positive for the disease.

Now, the state is investigating.

The facility, Granite Creek Health and Rehabilitation Center in Prescott, a skilled-nursing facility with more than 100 long-term residents and rehab patients from the local hospital, had been spared until early June from the pandemic. But as certified nursing assistant at the facility told Phoenix New Times, things spiraled out of control quickly after an employee tested positive for the novel coronavirus on June 9.

New Times is not disclosing the name of the worker based on her request for anonymity. Sick with COVID-19 and still trying to beat back the virus in home quarantine, she doesn’t want to return to Granite Creek and doesn’t want publicity.

“The state surveyor told me that they’re keeping my identity secret and calling me by the code name ‘Hero Worker’ LOL,” she wrote in an email on Tuesday. “I am still concerned that it being known that I reported this could affect my ability to find another job once I’m recovered.”

Mike Rasmussen, the facility’s administrator, confirmed on Tuesday that 16 staff members and 25 residents at Granite Creek have tested positive. He acknowledged in an email that the company would allow a COVID-positive staff member to come to work, and might ask but would not require that a sick staff member come to work.

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Civil Immunity to Nursing Homes- A Blank Check for Abuse and Neglect, Covid-19

The following is an OPINION from Patricia Barnes at Forbes. We could not agree with the opinion more.

The Folly Of Granting Civil Immunity From Lawsuits To Nursing Homes

Granting broad immunity to nursing homes that failed to put in place reasonable protections for vulnerable residents during the pandemic represents an appalling abuse of the rule of law.

About 20 states already have granted nursing homes immunity from civil lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and now the U.S. Congress is poised to do so. What’s the rush?

There has been no serious investigation into how nursing homes performed in the pandemic and there is plenty of reason for concern.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported Friday that 31,782 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 as of May 31, which is about 33% of the nation’s known coronavirus deaths. The highest number of deaths occurred in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which were among the first to grant civil immunity to nursing homes.

A grant of immunity effectively eliminates civil legal redress for and on behalf of nursing home residents who died due of COVID-19 due to negligence and abuse.

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The Abuse of Nursing Home Patients from the Bottom to the Top – No Oversight, Covid-19

Nursing homes receive defective equipment as part of Trump administration supply initiative

Nursing homes with urgent needs for personal protective equipment say they’re getting gowns that look more like large tarps — with no holes for hands — and surgical masks that are paper-thin as part of the administration’s initiative to bolster supplies for vulnerable populations amid the pandemic.

“It would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high,” a Washington state official told CNN.

In late April, President Donald Trump announced an effort to shore up supplies to nursing homes, whose residents and staff have been among those most at risk of Covid-19. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was at the helm of the effort to send additional shipments to nursing homes.

For weeks, nursing home associations have tried to call attention to the elderly population and the lack of supplies to properly care for them.

“Too often, the only signs of FEMA’s much-hyped promise of PPE shipments—an allotment of gowns, gloves, masks and goggles based on staffing size of the provider—are scattershot delivery with varying amounts of rag-tag supplies,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of aging services, in a statement.

“As FEMA’s own deadline for shipment approaches, many nursing homes still don’t know if and when they’re going to receive anything,” she added. Sloan was among the attendees at the event where Trump initially announced the FEMA shipments.

To continue reading, click here.

 

Mayor Cuomo and the Nursing Home Execs who Get Immunity – Campaign Contributions and Covid-19

Andrew Cuomo gave immunity to nursing home execs after big campaign donations

 

EXCERPTED BELOW:

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful healthcare industry group suddenly poured more than $1m into a Democratic committee backing his campaign.

Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for healthcare industry officials, according to legal experts.

………………………………………….

GNYHA – a lobbying group for hospital systems, including some that own nursing homes – said it “drafted and aggressively advocated for” the immunity provision. The new law declares that top officials at hospital and nursing home companies “shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing healthcare services” to address the Covid-19 outbreak.

Prior to the budget language, Cuomo had already temporarily granted limited legal immunity to doctors and nurses serving on the medical frontlines. But the carefully sculpted passage buried in the state’s annual spending bill expanded that by offering extensive immunity to any “healthcare facility administrator, executive, supervisor, board member, trustee or other person responsible for directing, supervising or managing a healthcare facility and its personnel or other individual in a comparable role”.

New York is now one of just two states to shield those corporate officials from both civil lawsuits and some forms of criminal prosecution by the government, according to an analysis by Syracuse University law professor Nina Kohn and the University of Houston’s Jessica L Roberts.

“New York is an outlier and has the most explicit and sweeping immunity language,” Kohn said.

Cuomo’s administration said the new immunity provision – which is a narrow version of a broader proposal championed by the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell – is necessary.

Nursing Home Warning Sounded in 2016, In 2020 the Body Count is Getting Attention – “The Family Biz” – Covid-19

Scott Morrow visits his mother, Claudette Stasik, at the Bria of Geneva nursing home in the western suburbs of Chicago. Since mid-April, 75 of the nursing home’s 91 residents and 37 of its 120 workers have tested positive for the coronavirus. (Anjali Pinto for ProPublica)

THE FOLLOWING STORY REALLY TELLS ITSELF. IT’S SIMPLY DOLLARS OVER DECENCY, PROFIT OVER PROPRIETY AND MORAL BANKRUPTCY OVER HUMANITY

This story could be told in two separate parallel lines – one is the side of money, profit and a system of ownership devoid of morality. It is the tale of a family empire that owns nursing homes in numerous states, collects government funds for much of the care they allegedly provide, earns private money or insurance/long-term care funding for each body (live or dead) in its care. But, that would not necessarily be the right story to tell here as this family is not alone.

This story is not the exception within the business of nursing home ownership. Sadly, just another tale…. We send our condolences to the families. We plead with governmental entities, attorneys general and those in political power to pay attention. The Shofar is sounding but no redemption to be had. Generally speaking, few nursing home magnates can escape the lure of incorruptibility. 

The other story is the telling of a failing governmental system of Nursing Home oversight. If an ownership conglomerate has a few poorly run nursing homes in one or two states, they will likely be consistently horrendous places in every state in which that conglomerate has an interest. This is with the exceedingly rare exception, though to be clear there are exceptions.

Generally speaking though, why favor reduced bottom lines and humanity when it is not as financially lucrative, particularly if the government is not paying attention; and if the beds are getting filled? We are not here to do good deeds, are we?  

For our comments, we will leave the family ties to anyone who wants to look, no judgement, no opinions… well….  

To the oversight, we need to say very little. People are dying. Bodies are piling up. It was to be expected, whether by Covid-19 or something simpler. It was not implausible.  

In 2016 the Chicago Tribune laid out the problem with the Esformes nursing homes. Like yesterday’s story about the Nursing Home in Riverdale, NY, the Esformes family empire’s failings got largely ignored.

Those of us who have been sounding alarms since 2016 could provide anyone listening with the names of the most dangerous and reckless nursing home conglomerates in the United States. We could tell you who owns what, the number of violations of these homes, horror stories told by the nurses and healthcare workers, the way in which the slate gets swept clean, all of it. It is savage.

We, who have been looking for the last 4 or 5 years are a collective treasure trove of information. All someone needs to do is ask or pay attention. 

Read on.

From 2016 story in Chicago Tribune:

“Ex-employees allege nursing home tried to mislead inspectors on abuse”

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-bria-river-oaks-nursing-home-met-story.html

excerpted:

Records show that some of those federal health-care dollars went to Weinfeld’s uncle, nursing home magnate Morris Esformes, whose son and close business partner, Philip Esformes, is being held without bond in a Miami federal detention cell on charges that he orchestrated a $1 billion Medicaid kickback scheme in Florida.

Morris and Philip Esformes in 2012 sold the Burnham home and three other Chicago-area facilities to companies run by Weinfeld and Weinfeld’s brother-in-law, Daniel Weiss, but those homes continued to pay consulting and real estate fees to companies managed by Morris Esformes, state records show.

FASTFORWARD TO 2020, PROPUBLICA REPORTS…

A Quarter of the Residents at This Nursing Home Died From COVID-19. Families Want Answers.

Within three weeks, the Bria of Geneva nursing home went from one case of COVID-19 to two dozen residents dead and at least 75 infected. Delayed testing and gaps in nursing home data obscures the true toll of the crisis.

…..

While other Illinois nursing homes may have seen larger overall numbers of cases and deaths, almost none have experienced an outbreak on the scale of the one here, with more than two-thirds of the residents infected with the virus and one-fourth killed by it. The situation at Bria of Geneva illustrates the price of insufficient and delayed testing and how a lag in public reporting of cases and deaths in nursing homes obscured the breadth of a crisis that has disproportionately hit the state’s vulnerable elderly population.

The first resident at Bria of Geneva tested positive April 17. At the time, Illinois public health officials had instructed nursing homes that they did not need to test everyone when there were positive cases. That guidance changed soon after, when state officials acknowledged that more testing was needed in nursing homes to identify asymptomatic residents and staff members and prevent large outbreaks. Still, it took another week for Bria to obtain enough supplies to do widespread testing.

State public health officials first released coronavirus case data on nursing homes April 19. It showed no cases at Bria of Geneva, even though the outbreak was underway. In some of the Public Health Department’s weekly updates since, the number of deaths has been undercounted or becomes outdated almost as soon as it’s released, according to a comparison of state data with a tally from the Kane County coroner’s office.

note Efriam Weinfeld:

Efriam Weinfeld – Business Profile | Bria Health Services L.L.C | ZoomInfo.com