Saturday, May 4, 2013

Senior Advocates: Sarasota Nursing Home A Poster Child For Sort Of Problems That Can Arise From Lack Of Government Oversight; State Lawmakers Push To Further Loosen Industry Regulations

In Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports:

  • Two men imprisoned for health care fraud in the late 1970s slipped by a state agency's screening when they opened a Sarasota nursing home.

    The Harmony Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center later became one of the nation's prime examples of what can go wrong in senior housing before it was shut down by state regulators for failing basic safety measures and not accounting for the disbursement of narcotics.

    The state Agency for Health Care Administration approved a 2004 application from a company owned by brothers-in-law Benjamin Gelbtuch and Neil Ellman, each of whom was sentenced to three years in prison in 1979 for Medicaid fraud in New York.

    Six years after the pair opened Harmony Healthcare in 2006, the skilled nursing home on Courtland Street in Sarasota was shuttered after the death of a patient revealed widespread problems with the center's care.

    With the building now lost to foreclosure and the company run by Gelbtuch and Ellman in bankruptcy, advocates for seniors say the nursing home is a poster child for the sort of problems that can arise from a lack of government oversight.

    Meanwhile, state legislators are pushing to further loosen regulation of the nursing home industry and erode the recourse consumers might have, a move opponents fear will open the floodgates for problems like those identified at Harmony.
  • "People who committed fraud, gamed the system and went to prison should never be able to open these types of facilities," said Brian Lee, who directed Florida's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program for eight years and now operates the nonprofit advocacy group Families For Better Care.

    "No convicted felon should be operating these homes. They're caring for our parents and grandparents."

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