They described a nightmare.

Months after the Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center was warned it could lose federal funding due to major violations that authorities said had threatened the lives and safety of the hundreds of residents who lived there, the problems at Sussex County care home continued to worsen.

The state, which is seeking to take control of the long-suffering facility, detailed in a complaint and lengthy brief on Tuesday that things weren’t improving at Woodland, despite continued monitoring by a monitor that the department of Health has put in place earlier. This year:

  • Last month, a resident with a feeding tube was transferred to hospital and was found to have an intestinal impaction. This had led to aspiration pneumonia, state investigators determined, as the tube feeding had nowhere to go due to the blocked colon – other than back up through the oral cavity and to the lungs.
  • Earlier this month, another Woodland resident hospitalized with a similar blockage was never properly evaluated, leading to the possibility of a perforated colon, sepsis and death.
  • The facility’s COVID precautions failed to protect residents day in and day out, officials said, pointing to the failure of Woodland staff to wear the necessary personal protective equipment, isolate those who were infected with the virus or even come up with adequate infection control plans.
  • And just Monday, an altercation between two residents resulted in serious bodily harm requiring surgery.

At the same time, they revealed that Woodland was on the verge of bankruptcy, according to the Sussex County Superior Court filing which sought the appointment of a receiver to take over the facility.

“Woodland continues to violate health, safety and/or resident care standards and appears to be in acute financial distress or at risk of filing for bankruptcy,” the Department of Health attorneys wrote.

Due to ongoing violations and “acute financial distress,” they said there is a substantial risk that federal regulators will soon terminate Woodland’s Medicare and Medicaid provider agreement. This would immediately close a licensed facility for more than 500 beds.

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Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey will not tolerate long-term care facility operators who cannot provide the care its most vulnerable residents need.

“It has become abundantly clear that the people running this nursing home refuse to take responsibility for the people they care for,” the governor said.

The decision to take control of the facility through a court-appointed receiver marked an extraordinary step for the state.

Attorney Paul da Costa of Roseland – who is representing a number of families in lawsuits accusing New Jersey of gross negligence and incompetence in its handling of the COVID outbreak at the state’s veterans homes, called it a bold move given her uniqueness and the “incredibly poor care” that was inherently at the heart of the decision.

“Patient safety must be the overriding goal of operators of all long-term care and other medical facilities. This state decision, hopefully, is not a one-time decision. On the contrary, the state should devote more resources and money to enable the Ministry of Health to hold all bad actors fully accountable,” he said.

And the sad reality, he added, was that Woodland “certainly isn’t the only bad apple in the bunch.”

The attorney said the state should methodically triage all bad apples and not allow them to unnecessarily endanger the vulnerable residents who live in these facilities.

“The governor has an opportunity to show the rest of the country how to protect the vulnerable population that inhabits these facilities and ensure that there is a fair and complete accounting for all residents of nursing homes who have been unnecessarily put in danger and had their safety and well-being. -be in danger,” da Costa said. “If nothing else, COVID-19 has presented us with an opportunity not to allow the status quo in nursing homes to be good enough.

Deborah R. Gough, a Hackensack attorney who sued Woodland after a resident with dementia was able to walk out in freezing weather without anyone noticing, said it was high time Woodland was held accountable for its mismanagement.

“People have confidence that their loved ones will receive proper care in these facilities. When they don’t fulfill their responsibilities, it’s devastating and can sometimes be deadly,” she said, hoping the state could turn the Woodland “into a reliable and trustworthy place.”

U.S. Rep. Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., who has repeatedly lobbied for the facility to be closed, applauded the state’s decision, saying that if Woodland can’t properly care for its residents, it must then be investigated and reorganized or closed. .

“It is clear that the investigations, fines and promises of improvements by the current Andover Subacute owners have not been enough,” he said. “Families need to trust that older relatives and veterans will be well cared for in their later years, whether they reside in private or public long-term care facilities.”

Woodland’s is owned by Alliance Healthcare Holdings of Lakewood, whose leaders include CEO Chaim “Mutty” Scheinbaum and Louis Schwartz, the eldest son of Joseph Schwartz who was indicted in January in a multimillion-dollar federal tax evasion scheme related to with Skyline Healthcare, its bankrupt multi-state nursing home chain that once sought to buy the long-term care facility.

But while the Sussex County nursing home is licensed and operated by Alliance, the property itself is owned by a limited company and leased to Alliance.

The facility’s attorney and its administrator did not respond to requests for comment.

A MAKEUP MORGUE

Woodland has a long history of health and safety violations, as well as documented shortcomings in residential care issues, the state said in its filing, noting in particular national media coverage and scrutiny by federal and state officials and regulators after police in April 2020 discovered 17 bodies. in a temporary makeshift morgue at the nursing home.

Formerly known as Andover Subaigu and Rehabilitation Center, the facility changed its name to Woodland Behavioral after the bodies were discovered. (An adjacent sister facility under the same owner, known as Andover Subacute I, has been renamed Limecrest Subacute and Rehabilitation Center.)

The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services later fined Woodland $220,235.

The facility was again in the spotlight in February after a state inspection report issued a warning of ‘imminent danger’ to Woodland residents – including the failure to make any effort to resuscitate a resident 55-year-old found in cardiac arrest and not breathing on New Year’s Day.

In a separate incident, this report stated that a nurse’s aide allegedly left a resident soiled with feces for ten hours overnight. The unnamed resident already had a pressure sore, or eschar, which was said to be exacerbated by dampness and susceptible to infection.

And for a two-week period from late December through January, not a single day went by without enough certified nurse aides on duty to care for its residents, regulators found. Sometimes the nursing home operated with only half the staff required under state mandates.

According to Tuesday’s court filing, approximately 33 complaints were investigated by the Department of Health from April 2020 to November 2021 in Woodland. In late November 2021, state surveyors traveled to Woodland to investigate a resident’s suicide.

At the same time, the state said Woodland appeared to be “in acute financial distress or at risk of filing for bankruptcy protection.”

They noted that the facility had negative cash flow, limited borrowing capacity, and they questioned its real estate lease structure as it faced a new deadline regarding the possible loss of its federal funding.

As of January 31, Woodland’s balance sheet showed total assets of approximately $15.8 million and total liabilities of approximately $19.8 million. He said there were doubts about Woodland’s ability to pay its debts as they came due.

“There is substantial doubt as to Woodland’s ability to borrow funds to deal with its financial distress,” the state’s attorney wrote in his court filing.

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Ted Sherman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL

Susan K. Livio can be reached at [email protected]dvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio.