Operator: Nursing home passed federal agency scrutiny

File The Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing is seen in this file photo.

A report by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., released earlier this month revealed that Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing is on a list compiled by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the most troubled nursing homes in the country.

Cooperstown Center, part of Centers Health Care, graduated from the “Special Focus Facility” program in February, said Jeffrey Jacomowitz, director of public relations at Centers Health Care, in an email Monday. Cooperstown Center spent 27 months in the program designed to increase oversight of facilities that continuously under-perform during inspections, according to the list.

The list contains 88 SFFs as well as roughly 400 SFF candidates. SFF candidates have a “persistent record of poor care,” but only a portion are selected for the program because of limited resources at CMS, according to the June report, titled “Families’ and Residents’ Right to Know: Uncovering Poor Care in America’s Nursing Homes.” Before the report’s release, the list of SFF candidates wasn’t publicly available.

Cooperstown Center still appears on the list as a candidate despite having recently graduated the program, because the CMS listings include a broad look-back meant to include prior years of non-compliance, Jacomowitz said. SFFs are expected to graduate from the program within 12-18 months, according to the report.

To graduate, the facility needs to undergo two surveys where no serious deficiencies are identified, at least six months apart. If a facility fails to improve, it is terminated from participating in Medicare and Medicaid.

There are rare cases where a facility is allowed more than 18 months under the SFF program to improve because of concerns about access to care if the facility were terminated, according to the report.

“Cooperstown Center and Centers Health Care were never advised as to the reason for the delay between having met the criteria and receiving the official graduation letter, 11 months later,” said Cooperstown Center Administrator Jeff Emhoff in an email.

The center had been cited for 13 deficiencies according to CMS inspection reports from August 2018 and November 2018. These included the center’s failure to ensure they investigated alleged neglect of one of four residents reviewed for abuse, prescribing narcotic pain medications and not adequately monitoring them to determine effectiveness as well as need to continue usage and having unclean food preparation surfaces.

As part of Cooperstown Center’s initial recovery plan, it has implemented proven clinical pathways and systems, together with the hiring and training of competent clinical and operational leadership, Jacomowitz said. Additionally, the regional director of clinical services and regional administrator from Centers Health Care’s corporate team provide weekly clinical and operational oversight, he said.

The facility — formerly known as Otsego Manor — was once county-owned, but was sold in 2014 to the Focus Family of Companies for $18.5 million despite local opposition.

Focus cut the staff of the nursing home from 298 to 225 employees, and was beset with patient-care issues and regulatory inspections in its time running the facility. Four employees were fired in 2016 after a 94-year-old woman was left without care for 41 hours during Memorial Day Weekend.

The employees were arrested on criminal charges and later pleaded to lesser counts in Otsego Town Court. An $18,000 fine was also imposed by the state Department of Health.

Centers Health Care bought the facility in January 2018.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.