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The Justice Department late Wednesday announced it has sued three connected nursing homes in Ohio and Pennsylvania, citing their “grossly substandard skilled nursing services.”

The False Claims Act complaint against the nonprofit American Health Foundation (AHF), its affiliate AHF Management Corporation, and the nursing homes themselves alleges the facilities failed to meet required standards of care for infection control protocols and did not maintain adequate staffing levels between 2016 and 2018.

The nursing homes include Cheltenham Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia; the Sanctuary at Wilmington Place in Dayton, OH; and Samaritan Care Center and Villa in Medina, OH.

AHF is headquartered in Dublin, OH, and owns and controls four skilled nursing facilities in Ohio, as well as facilities in Pennsylvania and Iowa. The nursing homes included in the allegations have nearly 400 beds overall.

A phone message left by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News after business hours Wednesday night at American Health Foundation and AHF Management Corp. for president Suzanne Lehman was not immediately returned.

Justice officials in a statement alleged that Cheltenham “housed its residents in a dirty, pest-infested building; gave its residents unnecessary medications, including antibiotic, antipsychotic, anti-anxiety and hypnotic drugs; failed to safeguard residents’ personal possessions; subjected residents to verbal abuse; neglected to provide residents with activities or stimulation; and failed to provide needed psychiatric care”

It also said Wilmington Place and Samaritan “failed to create and maintain important medical records.” As in the Cheltenham case, several of the allegations revolved around unnecessary or undelivered medications.

The complaint also outlines the suicide of a Cheltenham resident who was admitted with a history of self-harm, was later hospitalized after slashing his wrists but still was not provided psychiatric services. Weeks after readmission, he hanged himself in a shower room, justice officials said.

At least five nursing homes connected to AHF were bought or sold between 2016 and 2018, according to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ownership database. Among them were two of the three facilities cited in the current complaint.

“Nursing homes are expected to provide their residents, which include some of our most vulnerable individuals, with quality care and to treat them with dignity and respect,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will not tolerate nursing homes — or their owners or managing entities — who abdicate these responsibilities and seek taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled.”

According to a database that tracks publicly available information about various charities, AHF had more than $3 million in revenues in each of the years addressed in the False Claims complaint. The same database shows annual program expenses for the related nursing homes and assisted living facilities managed by AHF averaged about $800,000 annually over the same three-year period.

The suit is the result of an investigation initiated through the Justice Department’s National Nursing Home Initiative, launched in March 2020.