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State revokes license for Mercer Island Care and Rehabilitation Center
The Washington state Department of Social and Health Services revoked the nursing home license of the Mercer Island Care and Rehabilitation Center and appointed a temporary manager June 4, after determining the center’s financial instability posed an immediate health and safety risk to residents.
DSHS field manager Bennetta Shoop said the center, located at 7445 S.E. 24th St., lost its license as a result of a May 30 complaint investigation regarding the center not having enough money to meet resident care and needs.
"The fact that ownership had no funds, no moneys at all, and had to obtain a line of credit to support basic needs, at times signaling delays in obtaining necessary supplies and continuing to put residents at a high likelihood of imminent risk, we just didn't know when things would come through or wouldn't come through for residents, including payroll," said Shoop, noting basic needs included food and medications.
According to a news release from DSHS, the temporary manager in charge of operations at the center and will maintain and safeguard its records until all residents are relocated to other care settings. DSHS anticipates most residents will be relocated within 30 days, with the center not closing until all residents are relocated. A Home and Community Services staff member will be at the facility to assist those involved with the 74 residents, and the residents themselves, in identifying alternative care settings.
Videll Healthcare will still serve as the licensed provider, while Prestige Care, Inc. will help with the closure of the facility and ensure the vendors are paid while residents find new locations.
Betsy Zuber, geriatric specialist and licensed mental health counselor for the city said while she didn't know the makeup of the patients at this particular facility: "These were the most frail…They're frail and disabled and they need medical care…It's very difficult [for families]…to find placements."
Though the Mercer Island Care and Rehabilitation Center didn't exclusively house the elderly, Zuber noted that nursing home beds have become increasingly scarce. In the last ten to 15 years, a number of facilities have shut down, often times to make room for condos or more profitable developments.
"We've lost nursing home beds. They're not building," said Zuber. "That could be one of the many reasons we have more alternative places like adult family homes. Nursing homes are more expensive and not everyone needs high-end 24/7 medical care."
Shoop said residents will go wherever beds are available, be it other nursing homes in the area or to homes with their families. Some may even have to go outside of King County. But the fate of the Mercer Island Care and Rehabilitation Center is sealed, and there are few Island alternatives.
"We are closing that building down. If there's to be another long-term care facility in that location, it would have to go through another application process," said Shoop. "It's a fairly old building. If someone were to come in, it would probably require refurbishing. I can't speak to if there'll be additional Mercer Island beds at this time."
This is not the first time health, safety and finances have come into question with the Mercer Island Care and Rehab Center, nor is it the first time a health care center managed by Videll Healthcare made news regarding financial stability. In its online nursing home profile, Medicare.gov, the official Medicare website, rated the Mercer Island Care and Rehabilitation Center “below average.” In October of 2013, workers from the center picketed calling for better wages.
Earlier this month, Minnesota's Star Tribune reported the Minnesota Department of Health seized control of a Minneapolis nursing home managed by Videll Healthcare, Camden Care Center, saying numerous health and safety violations posed “an immediate and serious threat” to the well-being of its vulnerable residents. In January, Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham took Videll to task for its handling of Massachusetts nursing home, Park Place, with sources telling the Globe Videll failed to pay bills for months, interrupting essential services and leading to trash pile-up and stoppage of food deliveries.
Reporting from Joseph Livarchik and Celina Kareiva was used for this story.
CORRECTION: The print issue of this story misquoted Betsy Zuber. In the seventh paragraph the Reporter did not specify that it was nursing home beds that had become increasingly scarce. In the eighth paragraph the Reporter misquoted Zuber. We regret this error.