Vermont mulls regulatory changes


After New York investor and then closure of a skilled nursing facility, Vermont mulls regulatory changes

VERMONT — Following the closure of a 67-bed skilled nursing facility in White River Junction, state officials are asking whether regulatory changes are needed to monitor nursing homes.

The Green Mountain Care Board, which approves certificate of need and approved the sale of Brookside and Green Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation in Colchester, expressed concern in 2015 over New York investors buying the facilities with no background in long-term care, according to the Valley News. But oversight once the properties were sold moved to the Department of Aging and Independent Living, which began documenting quality problems under the new owners, ranging from failure for residents to see a doctor to low staffing levels. 

Board members said there should be more accountability, especially as out-of-state companies buy nursing homes in Vermont. Almost 20% of the state’s approximately 3,000 nursing home beds are empty, the newspaper reported. 

State officials acknowledged regulatory changes were being discussed. DAIL “is not designed to do what we all think it should be doing,” DAIL Commissioner Monica Caserta Hutt said.

Sexual assault conviction

NEW YORK — A former resident of a skilled nursing facility has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a fellow resident, the attorney general announced in November.

Homer Pearce, 79, who used to live at Focus at Otsego Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, pleaded guilty in county court to a first-degree felony.

Pearce admitted that in August 2016 he touched an elderly and disabled nursing home resident’s genitals. In addition to two years in prison, he will have three years of post-release supervision and will have to register as a sex offender.

Raid at nursing home

PENNSYLVANIA — The St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare was raided on Nov. 1 by agents of the state attorney general’s office, according to local reports.

A spokesman for the office told the Philadelphia Inquirer he could neither confirm nor deny any existing investigation. 

An August investigation in response to complaints found deficiencies in wound care, residents who were not eating and inadequate response to change in medical condition, according to the state. The license for the nursing home was revoked Sept. 1 but it was allowed to stay open during an appeal.

A spokesman for the Center Management Group told the newspaper the facility was cooperating with law officials.


Volunteer fights flu shot

MINNESOTA — A hospice volunteer who is unwilling to receive a flu shot may not be able to continue her work, according to local reports.

Noreen Hautala, 58, who lives 30 minutes northwest of Duluth, said she didn’t want the flu vaccine and asked for an exemption. But Essentia officials said their mandatory flu shot policy applies to all volunteers, as well as employees and vendors. 

United Steelworkers went to court to try to prevent the policy from being enforced. The union, which represents around 2,000 Essentia workers, had asked that the Nov. 20 deadline be moved back and that the vaccines be voluntary. The groups were in talks but failed to reach a settlement as of press time.

State’s first flu death 

IOWA — The first flu death in Iowa for the season was a man from the middle of the state who was at least 81 years old, according to the Iowa Public Health Department. 

State Department medical director Patricia Quinlisk said the man’s death was a reminder that the flu can cause death in the “very young, very old or those who have underlying health conditions.” Nebraska also reported its first flu death, another senior citizen, in November, officials said.

Veterans Home investigated

MISSOURI — Following allegations of poor care, The Missouri Department of Public Safety is investigating St. Louis Veterans Home at the direction of Gov. Eric Greitens (R).

After announcing the investigation, Greitens sent a scathing letter to Sens. Roy Blunt (R) and Claire McCaskill (D), who were among politicians calling for a review after a St. Louis Dispatch article reported families’ concerns over care. 

Greitens wrote in his Nov. 2 letter that it was “good to see some signs of life out of Congress” and that he didn’t need more “meaningless letters from career politicians.” 


Medicaid contracts blocked

LOUISIANA — State House Republicans temporarily blocked managed care Medicaid contract extensions in early November worth $15.4 billion.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration wants to keep five deals in place for 23 months past their January expiration, The Advocate reported. 

Administration officials said it was unclear what House members wanted to be changed.

Generator funding debated 

FLORIDA — Industry officials asked in mid-November if nursing homes could include generators on the cost reports facilities must submit to the state, the News Service of Florida reported. 

The latest discussions within the Nursing Home Prospective Payment Working Group included fall-out from Hurricane Irma and Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) insistence on long-term care facilities having generators that could last 96 hours. Three long-term care associations have challenged Scott’s rule.