With a string of recent reported incidents involving the mistreatment of residents at Syracuse's nursing homes, you might be wondering--What is going on? In the past 6 months, three separate privately-owned Syracuse nursing homes have been the subject of news features, all covering issues related to patient care.
First, the facility formerly known as James Square (now Bishop Rehabilitation and Nursing Center) locked out a stroke survivor, and did not know he was missing for over 3 hours, and in the meantime he crossed a busy street at night using a walker, fell and hit his head on a sidewalk. He ended up in a hospital emergency room. This led to a raid by the New York State Attorney General's Office over patient care issues. More recently, James Square was sold, and a group of family members of former residents filed a class action lawsuit against the previous owners and the new owners alleging mistreatment of residents secondary to understaffing at the facility.
Another facility, Van Duyn, formerly operated by Onondaga County, but sold in 2013 to a private company, received complaints in March of this year that residents were living in near-freezing conditions during the dead of winter in Central New York. It took multiple phone calls to News Channel 9's Your Stories and a significant volume of complaints on social media before the administration allegedly took steps to fix the heating issue. Then, in a sick twist, a deceased resident was left in a cooler in the basement at Van Duyn, and because the cooler was not functioning properly and the temperature was too high, the body decomposed so badly that the family could not have an open-casket funeral.
Recently, the former Crossings in Minoa, now Onondaga Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, was fined for having an administrator who lived outside of the State of New York and was not available on weekends, being grossly understaffed, not feeding the residents meals on time, and not providing sufficient fluids to the residents. All of these issues were related to an insufficient staffing, which the facility blamed on an inability to hire enough staff members.
You may be wondering, what is the common thread with these problems? Staffing is certainly an issue, the pay for most aides and the size of the staff at these facilities is clearly inadequate to meet the demands of the residents. However, I think an even bigger problem is that these facilities are all owned by private companies that are located outside of Central New York.
James Square is owned by an individual in Long Island, Van Duyn is owned by an accountant and a former nursing home administrator who live outside of New York City, but most of the office operations are located in New Jersey, and The Crossings owner is located in New York City. All of these entities are now owned and operated as for-profit facilities. Contrast this with some other bigger facilities in Central New York like Loretto and St. Luke Health Services in Oswego, which are not-for-profit corporations, and you begin to see a major trend.
The issues are two-fold, the cost of running a nursing home is enormous, but if you are able to own and operate several facilities, you can drive down your costs and increase your profit margins. This encourages investors and owners to purchase several facilities across a wide geographic footprint. The second problem stems from this, if the owners with a vested interest in the facility do not live in your community, they are not invested in the treatment of residents from that community, they are invested in their profit margin.
At the end of the day, these problems are not unique to for-profit nursing homes with out-of-town owners, but it does seem to be a disturbing trend. If you have loved ones in need of nursing home care, whether for short-term rehabilitation, or on a long-term or permanent basis, you should think about the type of facility you are looking into, and always contact your Syracuse Elder Law attorney if you need any help selecting a nursing home for your loved one.