These Colorado nursing homes were poorly rated and eligible for federal oversight. Until this week, nobody knew.
Four Colorado nursing homes appeared on a previously unreleased list of facilities across the country that have documented patterns of poor care for their residents.
Alpine Living Center in Thornton.
The seniors living in those nursing homes have faced filthy conditions, neglect, safety hazards and physical abuse.
In all, approximately 400 nursing homes in the United States were identified as poor performers in state inspections as part of an ongoing Congressional probe into nursing home oversight. The four Colorado nursing homes previously had not been publicly identified in a limited national database of poor performers. A fifth nursing home in the state was on the list in April.
The report, released by Pennsylvania Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, focused on families’ right to know what quality of care is given in nursing homes.
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Every month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service determines which facilities will be included in the Special Focus Facility program. These facilities are subject to more frequent surveying and progressive enforcement actions, and their names are made public. Nursing homes in the program are given 18 to 24 months to significantly improve care, or else they could be dropped from Medicare and Medicaid — essentially forcing them to close.
The program, however, can only include 88 facilities nationwide at any one time due to limited resources. Because of that, hundreds more facilities that performed poorly enough to merit oversight were not included in the program.
That meant their names were never publicly identified.
The senators’ report lists four previously unnamed Colorado facilities: Monaco Parkway Health and Rehabilitation Center in Denver, Alpine Living Center in Thornton, Aspen Living Center in Colorado Springs and Pearl Street Health and Rehabilitation Center in Englewood. All are operated by Sava Senior Care, the country’s fifth-largest nursing home provider.
All four facilities have an overall rating of two stars out of five, or “below average”, in Medicare’s nursing home database. They all received one star (“much below average”) for health inspections. The fewer the stars, the database states, the more health risks associated with a facility.
Annaliese Impink, spokeswoman for Sava Senior Care, said in a statement that the facilities are “continuing to improve their quality of care and quality of life.” Impink cited improvements by Pearl Street, Alpine and Monaco on recent state annual inspections as evidence of progress.
The four facilities named in the report have been among the most heavily fined and received the highest number of deficiencies in the state, according to Medicare data compiled by ProPublica:
Alpine Living Center, which serves 77 residents, has been cited for 73 deficiencies and fined $751,000 since 2016 Aspen Living Center, which serves 91 residents, has been cited for 61 deficiencies and fined $210,000 since 2015 Monaco Parkway Health And Rehabilitation Center, which serves 76 residents, has been cited for 45 deficiencies and fined $169,000 since 2015 Pearl Street Health and Rehabilitation Center, which serves 72 residents, has been cited for 57 deficiencies and fined $149,000 since 2016
Of the 228 nursing homes in the state, Alpine Living Center has incurred the highest total fines by a wide margin, ProPublica’s data show. In fact, the facility has incurred over $200,000 more in fines than the second-most fined facility. Alpine also has been cited for the second-most deficiencies in the state. Its last few reports have identified fewer deficiencies.
Alpine’s violations have ranged from minor to severe, including a few that posed “immediate jeopardy to resident health or safety,” Medicare reports stated. In a December 2017 inspection, investigators found that the facility failed to adequately investigate multiple incidents of abuse between residents, including one where a resident pushed another, causing an undisclosed injury.
“The facility’s failure to keep facility residents safe created a situation of immediate jeopardy with the potential for serious harm,” the report stated.
Sava Senior Care has previously come under fire in Colorado for conditions in one of its facilities. A Pueblo man and his family in 2014 were awarded $3.3 million after a jury found the Sava-managed Belmont Lodge Health Care Center in Pueblo guilty of recurrent negligence. The family said that 82-year-old James Sharon suffered from bed sores, skin tears and multiple infections among other maladies while under the center’s care.
Bethany Nursing and Rehab in Lakewood was the sole nursing facility in Colorado to be included in the federal Special Focus Facility program’s most recent public list of poor performers. The facility, which serves 133 residents, has been cited for 69 deficiencies and fined $222,000 since 2016, according to ProPublica. Bethany received received one star on Medicare’s health inspection rating.
A Bethany spokesperson said she was not able to answer questions about the listing and efforts to reach corporate managers were unsuccessful.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service Director Dr. Kate Goodrich said in a statement that her agency will post a list of the nursing homes that are candidates for the list as well as those already on it. She gave no time frame on when that would happen.
While the senators’ report publicized previously unknown nursing home failures, the information remains largely inaccessible to the general public because it doesn’t appear on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website, said Eric Carlson, an attorney with Justice in Aging, a nonprofit organization focused on senior poverty.
“If you’re a member of the public who doesn’t specialize in this sort of thing, it’s a bit ambiguous,” he said. “In that regard, it really falls short.”