Health Care

Feds’ secret list of troubled nursing homes includes eight in Kansas City area

A list of troubled nursing homes made public for the first time this week by a U.S. Senate committee includes eight in and around Kansas City.

The list, released Monday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, includes more than 400 facilities nationwide that are drawing extra scrutiny from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for persistently poor health inspections.

The agency already had designated some as “Special Focus Facilities” — a list of homes in danger of losing their Medicare certification that was made public earlier. But most of the names released Monday are facilities the agency is still considering for that designation — and those names had not been disclosed until the Senate committee asked for them.

“They’ve gone through a process of figuring out homes that could potentially have major problems coming up,” said Marilyn Rantz, a former nursing home administrator who is now a professor at the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing. “So it is a more extensive list: the pre-list.”

There are 11 facilities in Kansas and 17 in Missouri on the list. Of those 28, eight are in the Kansas City metro:

Indian Creek Health Care Center, Overland Park

Serenity Care and Rehab (which has been renamed the Overland Park Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing), Overland Park

Pinnacle Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Olathe

Kansas City Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, Kansas City

Garden Valley Healthcare Center, Kansas City

Maple Wood Healthcare Center, Kansas City

Edgewood Manor, Raytown

Redwood of Raymore, Raymore

Hidden Lake Care Center, Raytown

The only ones already on the Special Focus Facilities list are Hidden Lake Care Center and Serenity Care and Rehab. At 25 months, Hidden Lake has been on the list longer than almost any other facility in the country.

But its chances of keeping its Medicare certification have increased, as the feds have advanced the home to the “Facilities That Have Shown Improvement” section of the list.

Serenity Care and Rehab is new to the federal list. It’s one of several struggling facilities in the area recently purchased by New York-based Centers Health Care. The Kansas City Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing is another.

In addition to having poor inspections over the past year, both have also suffered from maintenance issues like a partial ceiling collapse and the loss of hot water.

Centers Health Care, in a statement released by spokesman Jeffrey Jacomowitz, said that the federal list is based on outdated inspection information and that since taking over the two facilities in June 2018, the company has made many improvements to put them on the right track.

“Both Overland Park and Kansas City Centers are now fully staffed, with line staff and management,” the statement said. “Both facilities have new administrators as well that were brought on board specifically because they each have a history improving troubled facilities.”

“A robust corporate team” established by Centers Health Care has been working to stabilize the facilities since the company took over, the statement went on to say.

“The company has continued to provide supportive services to ensure all needs are met on a daily basis, such as the hiring and training of nursing leadership and staff, all to ensure they have the ability to meet healthcare needs, while continuing to monitor technology needs pertaining to updating due to the changing healthcare industry.”

Amber Eklund, a spokeswoman for Plainview Health Care Partners, said the Brooklyn-based company had just acquired Indian Creek Health Care Center in Feburary and was in the process of turning it around by renovating the building, investing in training and leveraging state resources.

“There’s a large demand in the area for good health care and we want to be the preferred choice in the area for health care needs,” Eklund said.

Administrators at Pinnacle Ridge, Edgewood Manor and Redwood of Raymore did not return phone messages left Tuesday.

Garden Valley Healthcare and Maple Wood are operated by CommuniCare Health, a company based in the Cincinnati area. Fred Stratmann, a spokesman for the company, said it had acquired the two properties in 2017 and has been working diligently to improve them since then.

But there aren’t enough licensed nurses to meet demand, and with unemployment low it’s not easy to find people who are willing to do the physical, demanding work of a nurse’s aide at wages that are often comparable to fast food work, he said. And government reimbursements don’t allow for more.

“We operate on very, very tight (profit) margins when it comes to Medicare funding and we operate on what are basically negative margins when it comes to Medicaid funding,” Strattman said.

Still, he said CommuniCare is dedicated to improving the facilities.

“We’re working to address all these issues, but obviously the whole health care sector has many challenges in front of it,” Strattman said.

Rantz said there are resources that can help.

Missouri’s Department for Health and Senior Services has a state-funded quality improvement program that includes five nurses and three nursing home administrator coaches stationed throughout the state and available to provide advice and training.

“Sometimes because of new staff or turnover new folks come in from other states and they’re not aware of this program but they need to be,” Rantz said. “This is a wonderful service that is available and they don’t have to pay for it and they’ll get personal help; on-site help.”

Rantz said people who have a loved one in a facility listed above should talk to nurses and administrators there if they have concerns and maybe “nudge” them into using the quality improvement program.

She said those looking for a nursing home should make careful, thorough visits first, taking care to log what they see, what they smell and what they hear from residents.

The nursing homes on the list released this week are only a small fraction of the hundreds currently operating throughout Kansas and Missouri. A recent survey commissioned by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services found that 86% of Kansans in nursing homes would recommend their homes to others and Rantz said in her experience most Missouri homes are at least performing adequately.

“You do due diligence if you’re a consumer and you also know that most of the people who work in by far most of the nursing homes in this state do a great job,” Rantz said. “Their hearts are in the right places.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star

Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.