A 17-bed Lowry Hill East boarding-care home was on a list of poor-performing nursing facilities that a pair of U.S. senators released in early June.
Southside Care Center was one of 11 Minnesota facilities and nearly 480 nationwide on the list, released by Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.
All the identified facilities were either participants in or deemed candidates for the federal Special Focus Facility Program, as part of which facilities face additional scrutiny and penalties if they don’t improve.
Southside Care Center was named a candidate for the program because of its poor performance on its three most recent health inspections, conducted between May 2017 and October 2018 by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The facility had one of the 10 worst scores out of 375 Minnesota nursing facilities over the last three inspection cycles, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data.
State inspectors found 48 deficiencies during their three inspections of the Southside Care Center, according to CMS. That was over twice the number found at the average Minnesota facility during those cycles.
Most of the 48 deficiencies caused “minimal” harm but had the potential to cause actual harm, according to inspectors.
Three of the deficiencies put at least one resident in immediate jeopardy of harm. That included a deficiency, cited during a May 2017 inspection, of failing to protect a resident from physical abuse.
In that case, the resident sustained physical abuse on multiple occasions from two other residents, one of whom was her roommate, inspectors reported.
They said there was no evidence the facility had investigated the resident-on-resident abuses nor that they had been reported to the state agency. They also said there was no evidence the facility implemented interventions to keep the resident safe from physical abuse.
That same resident also told inspectors that a housekeeper sexually assaulted her and threatened her life, an allegation she had not previously reported to facility staff. The Minnesota Department of Health investigated the allegation further and found nothing to substantiate it, a spokesman said.
All three “immediate jeopardy” deficiencies occurred when the home was owned by Marcy Kronfeld. The home was sold in summer 2018 to a company called Bridges MN, and inspections under the new ownership have found no severe deficiencies. Blake Elliott, founder of Bridges MN, said he wouldn’t elaborate on why the facility had “the problems they had.”
Southside Care Center had 12 deficiencies during its one inspection so far under Bridges MN ownership. All but one caused “minimal” harm but had the potential to cause actual harm, inspectors reported. The other had the potential to cause minimal harm, inspectors said.
The deficiencies included everything from failing to effectively respond to resident council grievances on food preference to failing to ensure the dining room and a partial bathroom were in good repair.
Elliott said his company was able to correct them “within days.” With regard to food preference, he said that his company wants to listen to residents as much as possible but that not everyone is going to be happy all the time.
Bridges MN has brought on a nursing home administrator at Southside with “a lot of experience,” Elliott said. It’s also added a consultant to help with the nursing department.
A push for ‘greater transparency’
Sen. Casey said in a press release that he and Toomey asked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to release the Special Focus Facility candidate list to provide “greater transparency to individuals and families.” He and Toomey released the list on June 3 after CMS decided not to, the release said.
The 80-plus participants in the program had already been publicly known, but the approximately 400 candidates had not been.
“While the vast majority of nursing homes provide high-quality care, there are some that are consistently failing to meet objective standards of adequacy,” Toomey said in the statement. “To date, CMS has arbitrarily excluded from public disclosure a subset of these underperforming nursing homes. Moving forward, I hope CMS will give the public this particular list, as well as all relevant information about nursing home quality.”
CMS posted an updated candidate list in early July.
Sean Burke, public policy director of the Minnesota Elder Justice Center, said being a Special Focus Facility Program candidate is a big deal because it means a facility is worrisome enough to merit heightened scrutiny.
He said the surveys CMS uses to determine candidates don’t take into account individual complaints that have been made or bigger-picture data like staffing patterns over a series of weeks.
Southside Care Center is not eligible to participate in the Special Focus Facility Program, despite being listed as a candidate. That’s because the program is not open to boarding-care facilities, a CMS spokeswoman said. (The state’s boarding-care homes have less stringent licensure requirements than other Minnesota facilities.)