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Jul 24, 2015 by |

Humbold County Nursing Facilities Turning Away New Patients

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Humboldt County’s skilled nursing facilities have been closing their doors to patients. Many patients have had to leave the county to find another facilities.

The organization that owns most of the skilled nursing facilities in the area announced that it will no longer accept patients from St. Joseph’s Hospital. The company also ended the contract with the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which prevented clients who need higher care to be placed in the county facilities. Although both organizations and individuals have been given a number of reasons, such as lack of beds or staff, for not admitting patients, the real reasons include financial issues with the Partnership Healthcare Plan of California, the organization responsible for administering MediCal, and a nursing home businessman with a bad reputation.

It is difficult to quantify how many people were rejected from the facilities, but it is certainly a growing number. Some people think that this is due to the fact that the company that owns almost every MediCal-certified skilled nursing bed in the county (449 of 457 beds) has taken advantage of its dominant place in the sector by increasing the reimbursement rate from Partnership. Partnership did recently decide to increase reimbursement by 2 percent for long-term care providers across 14 Northern California counties.

Reaching the administrators of the company is impossible, and their public spokespersons refuse to give clear answers to the questions asked about the hypothetical bed shortage or other matters. Although the company has claimed that there is a shortage of beds, there are certainly a number of open beds available. The rumors about the real reason for patients being turned away from these facilities are numerous. It could be about the lack of skilled staff, or a lack of staff in general. California nursing home abuse attorneys say that this seems like a likely possibility, as turnover in skilled nursing homes is high and the salaries low. If this were the case, it would make sense that the facilities would have to take on fewer patients in order to maintain mandated staff time per patient ratios. But the facilities’ administrators have not talked publicly about this matter yet.

Although no one has been able to confirm if this is the case in Humboldt, there is a national trend of facilities prioritizing high-paying Medicare patients with short-term needs. Some clients are told that there is a limited number of Medi-Cal beds which is illegal, as any bed within a MediCal-certified facility is a MediCal bed. Skilled nursing facilities may refuse to accept a client without providing any reason, according to California nursing home attorneys.

A nursing home industry mogul, Shlomo Rechnitz, is the largest provider of nursing homes in California, including the five facilities in Humboldt that have closed their doors to new patients. Recently, he has been involved in several lawsuits about deficiencies in many of his facilities. They were all managed by the same entity, but the ownership was divided between several companies, all of which are related to Rechnitz in one way or another. This “long chain of custody” practice is a trick to protect common holdings and to avoid decertification or fines when one of the facilities is targeted by regulators.

It is difficult to find information about this kind of complex ownership hiding a common owner, even from the California Department of Public Health’s individual records for facilities. As A result, many who are looking to put their loved ones in his facility may not realize that Rechnitz is considered as a “serial violator” of state and federal regulations by the California Department of Public Health.

An emergency motion was filed by the California Attorney General’s Office to prevent Rechnitz from purchasing nineteen bankrupted facilities, as a result of the pattern of violations in the homes he owns. Many believe his homes are profitable as a result of siphoning money from Medicare and Medi-Cal patients. Rechnitz also owns stock in the medical supply company he founded, TwinMed, LLC, a leading supplier of medical and personal care items to nursing homes. It has not been found yet whether his company supplies the facilities he owns. Rechnitz’s company purchased the facilities in Humboldt in 201, when the previous owners were facing a lawsuit for inadequate staffing of facilities.

The California Department of Public Health visits the skilled nursing facilities annually to check if the state and federal guidelines are being met, as well as to investigate after receiving complaints. In October 2014, the California State Auditor released a report that condemned the California Department of Public Health for their lack of oversight of the skilled nursing facilities. Many complaints came from the Santa Rosa-Redwood Coast district office.

The complaint lodging procedure is slow and difficult, and so these complaints likely only represent a small part of actual abuse. Furthermore, residents are afraid to do it because they fear retaliation by the staff and going back to the streets. Many of them are also unaware of this procedure or their rights.

In these skilled nursing facilities, some patients are left to their own devices in a hostile atmosphere. Some of them are classified as “long-term care” residents so they do not receive any medical treatment anymore. These facilities are sometimes compared to dehumanized warehouses that get money from their patients but that provide poor healthcare.

Rechnitz closed the Wish-I-Ah facility in Fresno after it was decertified by the state because of any deficiencies related to infrastructure issue and negligence in healthcare. The patients moved to other facilities that he owns. Such upheaval provokes anxiety for patients and their families. Sometimes, they have to make a long trip to a new facility outside Humboldt County.
The increase in reimbursement rates is supposed to allow facilities to host more patients.

Evans Law Firm, Inc. handles nursing home abuse lawsuits, as well as other elder abuse cases. If you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, please contact Evans Law Firm, Inc. at 415-441-8669 or via email at info@evanslaw.com.

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