See the BUFFALO NEWS’ BROAD COVERAGE ON THIS SUBJECT
The lawsuits allege that understaffing at the facilities has led to infections and unsanitary conditions
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.”
Staffing has been a major issue as the union 1199SEIU negotiates new contracts with 65 downstate nursing homes.
“When it comes to staffing, they’re always short every day, and I think staffing is supposed to be a top priority because quality care is our main concern,” Carol Daley, a unit clerk who has worked at Bay Park for 11 years, said in a video recorded at an informational picket outside the facility last month. “Without that, our residents are at risk for having decubitus, [also known as a bed sore], and anything that goes with not having the good care that they deserve.”
Both Bay Park and Seagate have ratings of three out of five stars on the federal Nursing Home Compare site. Both received just one star for staffing—far below average—but nevertheless scored an above-average five stars on clinical quality measures. The state Health Department gives Bay Park four out of five stars. The facility was hit with 23 citations over the last four years, lower than the statewide average of 32. Seagate scored a three out of five overall from the state Health Department, with 27 citations over the last four years.
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August 13, 2018
House committee needs information for investigation of substandard nursing home care
You may remember that in April of this year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a strong letter to CMS stating that a number of reports and tragic events had raised questions about the adequacy of CMS’ oversight of nursing homes. The Committee requested a wide range of documents and information from CMS. As part of the Committee’s work, staff on the E&C’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee are investigating nursing home care.They have contacted Consumer Voice because they want to look into facilities/corporations with particularly poor care and speak with residents who have experienced substandard care and their family members.
This is a tremendous opportunity to highlight nursing home problems that we all see and hear about every day and that continue year after year. While we don’t know what will come from this investigation, we want to provide the subcommittee with as much information as we can. To do this, we need your help!
The subcommittee is requesting the following:
1. Facilities/owners – going back no more than roughly 5 years
2. Residents and families
Staff of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee would like to talk to residents and/or family members who have experienced poor care (or other issues) within the past 5 years and are willing to share their personal experience.
Subcommittee members will speak with individuals by phone, although it’s possible that not all individuals will be contacted for an interview depending on the number of responses. All information will remain confidential.
Please help us help the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee staff investigate poor care by sending any of the requested information by August 20 to Robyn Grant firstname.lastname@example.org
A very big thank you to everyone for your assistance!
In August, the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested information regarding Nursing Homes, in response to a number of tragic events that “raised questions about the adequacy of CMS’ oversight” of nursing homes.
While the deadline has since passed, at least officially, we do not believe that they would ignore reports, were anything to be sent along. The following is the letter which precipitated the committee’s response.
Here’s the latest about some of the substandard care found in nursing homes controlled by ultra-Orthodox multi-millionaire Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz. From Briuswatch.org: One of Brius Healthcare’s largest nursing homes is “woefully understaffed,” forcing residents to go weeks without a shower and sit in their own excrement for hours waiting for assistance, according to a recently […]
Brius has been hit with 15 class action lawsuits accusing the nursing home conglomerate of systemically understaffing its nursing homes to maximize profits, while delivering substandard care to thousands of elderly residents.
“These lawsuits are an effort on behalf of these vulnerable citizens to ensure that their needs are met,” Attorney Stephen Garcia told the Eureka Times-Standard. Garcia’s law firm and The Arns Law Firm in San Francisco allege that Brius homes across California misled potential residents about their compliance with staffing requirements.
In a statement to the Marin Independent Journal, Jill Basinger, a spokeswoman for Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz, claimed that Brius homes “not only maintain” minimum staffing requirements, “they even exceed them.”
However, Brius has been cited multiple times in recent years for understaffing, including at the Novato Healthcare Center and San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center, which were included in the class action lawsuits. In March, Brius caregivers from both homes, represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, joined residents and their loved ones at a public forum to call on Brius to put an end to chronic understaffing.
Earlier this year, a state investigation found the 181-bed Novato facility “woefully understaffed,” forcing residents to go weeks without a shower and sit in their own excrement for hours waiting for assistance.
Last year, the California Department of Public Health fined Brius’ San Rafael facility $15,000 for violating the state’s minimum staffing laws.
There has been heightened attention to nursing home staffing after recent reports found that major skilled nursing facilities were not providing accurate data to state and federal regulators.
In June, Medicare lowered its star ratings for staffing levels in one in 11 of the nation’s nursing homes because they either had inadequate numbers of registered nurses or failed to provide payroll data that proved they had the required nursing coverage, Kaiser Health News reported.
The lawsuits allege that understaffing at Brius, which is California’s largest nursing home operator, resulted in tragic outcomes for residents.
One lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court alleges that understaffing at Brius’ Alameda Healthcare & Wellness Center contributed to the 2017 death of Cathy Campbell, a 61-year-old Stockton woman.
According to the lawsuit, Campbell, who suffered from hypertension and chronic kidney failure, developed a severe bedsore and urinary tract infection that worsened because the facility lacked sufficient staff to care for her. Her health continued to suffer after she was transferred to a second Brius home in Oakland.
Garcia, who wrote that Campbell’s needs were “flat-out ignored,” blamed the Alameda facility for failing to properly treat her in a statement to the East Bay Times. It “knew that by not elevating her to a higher level of care when the sore reached a Stage III, they were violating the law, but in the interest of profits over patients, they made a conscious choice to wrongfully deny needed medical care.”
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A state committee voted Wednesday to approve an audit of California’s largest nursing home owner, Brius Healthcare Services, and whether the company misused hundreds of millions of dollars in government health care funds to benefit its affiliated businesses.
North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) is a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that voted in favor of the audit Wednesday afternoon. He said the Los Angeles-based Brius Healthcare Services has a “very convoluted” system of nursing homes under limited partnerships and has connections with other businesses founded by Brius Healthcare’s CEO Shlomo Rechnitz.
“Brius controls one in 14 [nursing home] beds in California and it is a very convoluted network of limited partnerships and all sorts of other mechanisms out there,” Wood said to the Times-Standard. “Part of this audit is to see if they are all legitimate. … Our feeling is the way they’re doing this is to maximize profits. It’s not about providing high quality care for people.”
Brius’ spokesman Stefan Friedman wrote in a statement to the Times-Standard that Brius representatives were present at the committee hearing today and were in full support of the proposed audit.
“Not only will the audit results prove that Brius has abided by all applicable rules and regulations, it will also show that Brius went well above and beyond its duties and obligations to subsidize the care of California’s most vulnerable,” Friedman said.
Friedman also questioned McGuire’s and Wood’s information, which it states was provided by the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The union has been outspoken in its opposition to Brius Healthcare Services and created a website — briuswatch.org — to scrutinize the company and its CEO Shlomo Rechnitz.
“What is most disturbing though is that legislators McGuire and Wood would also glean their information from ‘newspapers’ and blogs, demonstrating their lack of understanding for the very program they oversee,” Friedman continued. “We urge the community and the media to follow the audit through to its findings.”
Brius Healthcare, which owns five of the six nursing homes in Humboldt County and over 80 nursing homes statewide, received over $500 million in reimbursement funds in 2015 from the MediCal and Medicare government health plan programs, which made up 80 percent of its profits, Wood said.
Wood and his North Coast legislative colleague Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said Brius paid out more than $67 million that year to businesses with similar or related ownership for the purchase of services, goods and supplies, and paid more than $46 million to companies established Rechnitz that serve as landlords for their nursing home facilities.
A letter from McGuire and Wood to the state audit committee from earlier this month states that there is evidence that Brius facilities paid inflated prices to some of these business, with some prices exceeding 200 percent of market averages.
The nursing home company has come under fire for alleged patient health care violations, which has led to state entities denying the company’s bids to acquire more nursing homes and has led to multiple wrongful death lawsuits to be filed in Humboldt County in recent months.
“This is absolutely unacceptable especially when the state and federal government is spending $500 million dollars to care for our state’s most vulnerable in Brius facilities,” McGuire said to the Times-Standard on Wednesday. “We need to hold this corporation accountable.”
Brius Healthcare has expressed dissatisfaction with the reimbursement rates it receives from the state for treating MediCal patients.
The company temporarily stopped accepting MediCal patients into its Humboldt County nursing homes in 2015 while it disputed reimbursement rates with the North Coast’s MediCal provider, Partnership HealthPlan of California. Partnership HeathPlan agreed to increase reimbursement rates to Brius and other long-term skilled nursing facilities.
In the latter half of 2016, Brius Healthcare used its plans to close of three Humboldt County nursing homes to pressure Partnership into providing higher reimbursement rates so as to prevent the closures. Brius Healthcare cited low staffing levels as their reasoning for the proposed closure.
“We are confident we can avoid these closures, but we need PHP to start paying its fair share and allow us to attract full-time staff to meet our patients’ needs,” Friedman told the Times-Standard in September.
Partnership declined to increase rates, prompting Brius to announce its intention to cancel its contract with Partnership. However, this announcement was shortly retracted after it became clear that the company would lose reimbursement funds. Brius announced in November that it would only be closing one nursing home — Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Eureka — instead of three.
McGuire and Wood said the audit will likely be completed in 2018 and will be made public when it is given to the Legislature. McGuire and Wood said that the findings could result in legislation or, in the worst case scenario, criminal charges filed by the Attorney General’s Office.
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