Feds to cut Medicaid funds to NJ nursing home, which could force closure of beleaguered facility

A day after New Jersey went to court to take control of one of the worst nursing homes in the state, federal regulators unexpectedly decided to block Andover’s Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center , long-struggling, to receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid.

The decision, which could mean the death knell for the facility, was outlined in a 3-page notice to the state and others that was obtained by NJ Advance Media. It goes into effect June 25 – months earlier than the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threatened in March, following a growing list of serious health and safety violations that officials say authorities, had threatened the lives of the hundreds of residents who live there.

The federal funding cut would effectively shut down the facility, which relies heavily on federal and state reimbursement.

The nursing home administrator and the facility’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in a statement, said repeated investigations have documented the facility’s non-compliance with several federal requirements, including numerous non-compliance deficiencies that caused or were likely to cause. “serious injury, harm, impairment or death of residents. ”

He said multiple serious infection control shortcomings at Woodland have resulted in the death of 30 residents since October 2021 due to COVID-19, as well as shortcomings for failure to administer ’emergency medication’ to a resident. , which resulted in the subsequent hospitalization and death of the individual.

“Despite several opportunities to remedy their non-compliance, Woodland has not demonstrated that it can ensure the health, safety and well-being of its residents,” the agency said.

In the notice to Woodland, Heather A. Lang, director of the agency’s northeast division, said investigations and visits between February and May showed “continued non-compliance” by home operators. of retirement.

“We have determined that Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center no longer meets the requirements for participation as a qualified nursing facility in the Medicare program,” she wrote. “CMS will involuntarily terminate your health insurance provider agreement due to failure to return to substantial compliance with federal participation requirements for nursing homes.”

Lang said the Medicare/Medicaid program will not pay for covered services provided to residents admitted to the facility after June 25.

U.S. Representative Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., who has repeatedly lobbied for the facility — which is part of his district — to be shut down, was heartened by the decision.

“After sounding the alarm bells earlier this year and pushing for accountability, I’m glad to see this facility will close. I refuse to sit idly by while Jersey seniors are put at risk,” he said. “Families need to trust that older relatives and veterans will be well cared for in their later years, whether they reside in private or public long-term care facilities.”

State health officials said CMS’s advice was consistent with its advice to the facility earlier this year regarding the potential for decertification. The federal agency then gave Woodland owners until Aug. 15 to make major changes or face termination of its Medicare and Medicaid provider agreement.

“The Department of Health’s goal is to maintain the health, safety and dignity of the residents of Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center,” said spokeswoman Donna Leusner, who noted that Atlantic Health System, appointed by the State earlier this year as a monitor – responsible for conducting an assessment of business practices, operations and facility infrastructure – remains in place at the facility.

“In addition to the monitor, there is a daily presence of the Ministry of Health to ensure the health, safety and dignity of the residents,” she added, expressing the ministry’s appreciation for the care that staff of the establishment sued. provide “during this transition period”.

One of the state’s largest nursing homes, Woodland in rural Sussex County, has garnered national media coverage and scrutiny from federal and state officials and regulators after police uncovered 17 body in a temporary nursing home morgue over an Easter weekend in April 2020.

Formerly known as Andover Subaigu and Rehabilitation Center, the facility changed its name to Woodland Behavioral after the scandal. It is owned by Alliance Healthcare Holdings of Lakewood, whose leaders include CEO Chaim “Mutty” Scheinbaum and Louis Schwartz – the son of Joseph Schwartz.

The elder Schwartz was charged in January in a multimillion-dollar federal tax evasion scheme in relation to Skyline Healthcare, his bankrupt nursing home chain that sought to buy Woodland when it was still known as the name of Andover Subacute.

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In February, the New Jersey State Comptroller’s Office named Woodland one of the 15 worst long-term care facilities in New Jersey. But a health inspection the same month led to a new scrutiny of the care home after inspectors found it had failed to prevent several major issues of abuse and neglect, issuing a statement of ” imminent risk” which highlighted the potential impact on the health and safety of residents.

Among the details of that inspection report was the lack of any effort to resuscitate a 55-year-old resident found in cardiac arrest and not breathing on New Year’s Day. In another incident, a caregiver allegedly left a resident soiled with feces for ten hours overnight. And for a two-week period from late December to January, there were never enough certified nurse aides on duty to care for its residents. In fact, sometimes the nursing home operated with only half the staff required by state mandates.

These staffing issues have not gone away. NJ Advance Media reported this month that Woodland, along with 6 out of 10 nursing homes in New Jersey, failed to maintain adequate staffing levels.

The state, in seeking the appointment of a receiver, described in its suit filed in Sussex County Superior Court on Tuesday a continuing horror show. He found that the problems at Woodland had only gotten worse in recent months, despite continued monitoring by the Health Department’s monitor.

Last month, for example, a resident with a feeding tube was transferred to hospital and was found to have an intestinal impaction. This had led to serious medical problems, the investigators determined, who said the tube feeding had nowhere to go due to the blockage in the colon – other than back up through the oral cavity and to the lungs – causing aspiration pneumonia.

Another Woodland resident hospitalized with a similar blockage was never properly evaluated, leading to the possibility of a perforated colon, sepsis and death. And inspectors said the nursing home’s COVID precautions were grossly inadequate, with staff not wearing the necessary personal protective equipment or isolating those infected with the virus. They said the facility also lacked proper infection control plans.

Woodland, meanwhile, is already swimming in red ink. In their court filing, state officials said the nursing facility appeared to be “in acute financial distress or at risk of filing for bankruptcy protection.”

They noted that the facility already had negative cash flow and limited borrowing capacity.

As of January 31, Woodland’s balance sheet showed total assets of about $15.8 million and total liabilities of about $19.8 million, according to the state, expressing doubts about the house’s ability pension to pay his debts as they fall due.

The state health department suspended new admissions to Woodland in February. Since then, its population has grown from around 450 to the 360 ​​who live there today.

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Ted Sherman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL

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